Some candidates in even deeply red states think favoring more liberal policies on marijuana might be a key to toppling Republican incumbents this year. “For some voters, marijuana could be a defining issue,” says analyst Al Cross.
Dan Canon, a civil rights attorney running for Congress in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, supports legalizing medical marijuana at the federal level, a stance that has distinguished him in the eyes of many young voters, Politico reports. Attitudes and state laws on marijuana have changed so quickly and so broadly across the U.S. that Democrats even in deeply red states like Indiana not only don’t fear talking about the issue; they think it might be a key in 2018 to toppling Republican incumbents. They say the numbers are on their side, not the side of the politicians who either duck the subject or endorse Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ apparent desire to return federal marijuana policy to the “Just Say No” days of the Reagan administration.
House races in Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, plus Senate races in Texas and Nevada, feature Democratic candidates who have taken strong stands in favor of changing the federal marijuana laws, and are running against Republican incumbents who have not. “There’s nationwide support for recreational marijuana, and support for medical marijuana is even higher than that,” Al Cross of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky. He says there’s not much difference in the support for marijuana legalization in rural Southern states than in the Western blue states more associated with marijuana. “For some voters, marijuana could be a defining issue. We just don’t know how many that’s going to be yet.” No one thinks marijuana will win these elections by itself. The Democratic challengers likely will need all the lift they can get from any “blue wave” fed by resistance to Trump.