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Could marijuana help Biden keep the White House? Blumenauer thinks so

The retiring congressman said he is still going to push Democratic candidates to get federal reform accomplished this year.



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In an exit interview of sorts, longtime Oregon congressman and cannabis champion Earl Blumenauer strongly implied that if the Biden reelection campaign were smart, it would wrap both arms around the marijuana legalization ballot measure in Florida.


Blumenauer, who founded the Congressional Cannabis Caucus in 2017 and has reliably been a marijuana reform champion in Washington, D.C., announced last year that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection this coming November. But he told reporters on Friday that he’s still going to push Democratic candidates and the party at large to get federal reform accomplished this year, including the proposed rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule III.


That includes, he said, urging any and all who will listen that marijuana legalization is a winning political issue.


“If I were Joe Biden, trying to get right with young voters, particularly with young voters of color, and to atone for being on the wrong side of the failed War on Drugs, this is the issue to champion. In almost every state where cannabis legalization has been on the ballot, it passes overwhelmingly, often outperforming the same politicians who were reluctant to embrace it,” Blumenauer said at the outset of his prepared remarks.


“There is no longer any risk for anyone embracing full cannabis legalization. To the contrary, Joe Biden himself owes his (2020) victory in Arizona to the young voters who turned out en masse for a ballot measure to legalize cannabis, where it passed 60-40. That resulted in a 30,000 vote margin of victory for Biden in Arizona,” Blumenauer asserted.


“The reason that the Democrats control the Senate can be attributed to (U.S. Sen.) John Fetterman’s (of Pennsylvania) longtime advocacy for legalization. There’s no doubt in my mind that that was the source of the very narrow margin that resulted in his being elected to the Senate, and making (U.S. Sen.) Chuck Schumer the majority leader.”


Blumenauer went even further and said he believes that the elections of Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia in 2020, which gave Democrats a slim majority in the U.S. Senate, was due to the fact that neither candidate scorned marijuana.


“I will use every opportunity to make the point that cannabis can help Democrats win in 2024,” Blumenauer said.


Florida?


What Blumenauer didn’t mention is Florida, which will consider the question of adult-use cannabis on November’s ballot.


Reading between the lines, however, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to suggest that Biden could wrap up the presidential race if he and other Democrats decided to champion the recreational marijuana legalization ballot measure in the Sunshine State, for several reasons.


First, it’s low-hanging fruit, politically speaking. The ballot measure already has plenty of high-profile Republican opposition, including from Gov. Ron DeSantis, and some political analysts are suggesting the measure will benefit Democrats.


Secondly, Florida is one of the key prototypical swing states, a bellwether that has turned plenty of presidential elections on its own. Florida went for Trump in 2020 and in 2016, after Democrat Barack Obama carried the state in 2012 and 2008, and Republican George W. Bush won Florida twice in 2004 and 2000.


If, as Blumenauer suggested, marijuana was the push that Biden needed in Arizona four years ago, it could play a similar role in Florida.


Third, there’s basically no risk, politically speaking, for Biden or Democrats in general to stake out a position in favor of the ballot initiative – and even for wider cannabis reform. Doing so could also help Democrats in other states, such as Virginia, where Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is up for reelection in 2025, after just vetoing a bill to authorize recreational marijuana sales.


And it could have down-ballot ripple effects, playing a role in Senate or House races, Blumenauer suggested on Friday.


“We’ve had Republican pollsters join Democratic pollsters, giving briefings to congressional members and their staff, about how there’s no problem embracing legal cannabis. On the contrary, failure to do that makes their candidacies less attractive,” Blumenauer said.


All of which adds up to a simple political lesson, Blumenauer implied: If Biden doesn’t start taking cannabis reform a bit more seriously, it could become the straw that breaks his campaign’s back.

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