The Surprising Reasons Many Democrats Are Against Legal Marijuana

Since there are only two major political parties in America, there’s a lot of space for politicians to move around. That’s how you’ll find Democrats like Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb who are tough on trade and pro-life Dems like Texas’s Henry Cuellar.

The same goes for marijuana, and you’ll find a large percentage of people in the party supporting legalization for medicinal use, recreation, or both. However, not everyone agrees with this position.

Some high-profile Democrats, including Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy (page 7), stand opposed to full legalization. Here are some surprising reasons Democrats have come out against legal marijuana while a majority of Americans in both parties support it.

8. It doesn’t drive votes.

a line of white voting booths with American flags on them

Marijuana isn’t an issue that gets voters energized. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Politicians (the good ones) study a ton of issues, and many just focus on what’s important to them and constituents. In some cases, you might find a representative with limited knowledge of the facts.

Therefore, they may believe it’s best to stick with current laws until they learn more. In the meantime, marijuana is not driving many voters to (or away from) the polls. Either position is unlikely to burn support.

Next: Danger on the highway

7. Pot is leading to car crashes.

Minor car crash

More marijuana means more car crashes. | Tom Merton/iStock/Getty Images

Kevin Sabet, CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), spent two years as President Obama’s drug-control director prior to starting his own anti-pot-legalization organization. In an interview with Westword, Sabet cited a 2013 Canadian study saying marijuana-related car crashes cost the country $1 billion.

Sabet noted that the cost would be much higher in the U.S., where legalization would impact tens of millions more people.

Next: California’s senior senator was afraid of ads targeting children.

6. Dianne Feinstein: Pot-smoking ads will lure children.

Sen Diane Feinstein in a dark suit points to a photo of a rifle with a bump stock

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is more conservative than her constituents on marijuana. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During the campaign to pass legal recreational marijuana use (Proposition 64) in California, Senator Dianne Feinstein signed onto a letter saying cannabis companies could lure “millions of children” with ads, should the measure pass.

For decades, Feinstein’s Bay Area constituents have been to the left of her on weed, but to no avail. As one of the oldest members of Congress, it will be an interesting position for her to test during the 2018 Democratic Senate primary.

Next: A New England attorney general contended the black market would flood with state-sanctioned weed.

5. Rhode Island AG: The black market will flourish.

An activist smokes a joint during a prostest under the motto omething like 'We are not going to pay for it, we are going to get the kick out of it"

This attorney general is afraid of a black market rising. | Raul Aarboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (D) toured across his state in opposition of legalizing recreational marijuana in 2017. For Kilmartin, legal medical pot and decriminalization for small amounts was enough.

When a bill emerged that would allow individuals to legally grow weed in the state, Kilmartin sought to defeat it. He said the black market would end up with large amounts of weed grown legally.

NextSome legalization opponents say other drugs would come next.

4. First marijuana, then other drugs?

Could the legalization of marijuana lead to the legalization of other drugs? | Mike Theiler/AFP/Getty Images

This argument is an odd one, but it still came out in an interview with SAM’s Sabet, who also served in the Bush and Clinton administrations prior to working for Obama. Sabet argued that alcohol and tobacco were never properly regulated.

“And we will be talking about the legalization of other drugs if marijuana goes through,” he told Westword.

Next: As Big Tobacco did with teens, so will Big Pot do with America’s youth.

3. It’s just a commercial play by Big Pot.

A kiosk advertising cigarettes

Could it lead to the rise of the “Big Pot” industry? | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Patrick Kennedy, a former Democratic House rep from Rhode Island, SAM adviser, and relative of Joe Kennedy, wrote a Washington Post op-ed with Sabet in which he warned about the next Big Tobacco.

Kennedy argued the marijuana industry could become another “profit-hungry special-interest group looking after profits, not public health.”

Next: Joe Kennedy worried about adolescents with too-easy access to pot.

2. Joe Kennedy: It presents ‘danger to adolescents.’

Rep. Joe Kennedy has been an outspoken advocate for keeping pot illegal | Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Rep. Joe Kennedy opposes legalizing marijuana, which many pointed out prior to his State of the Union response. In an interview with Boston Magazine, Kennedy pointed out the “danger [it] … poses particularly to adolescents.”

It is true teens could have easier access than ever with full legalization. To which we would ask: Do many teens have an access problem in 2018?

Next: Are Dems still hung up on being ‘soft’ on the drug issue?

1. Worries about being ‘soft on drugs’

Drugs, Inc.

Being “soft on drugs” could be seen as being soft on crime too. | National Geographic Channels/ Laura Balfour

In the past decades, Democrats have worried about appearing weak on crime, foreign adversaries, and other similar things. Erik Atieri, one of the heads at National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), thinks that’s still going on with marijuana.

“I think it’s the scars left over from the ’80s and early ’90s where Republicans weaponized being soft on crime,” Altieri told Roll Call, adding it’s “baloney.”

For that reason, you see 2020 hopefuls like Kamala Harris (D-California) and others tiptoeing around the issue. With the dam appearing to break on gun issues, marijuana might be next in 2018.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!