The US Presidential Elections are now between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Could a pro-cannabis stance earn Biden the presidential win?
Following Bernie Sanders’ election drop out at the beginning of April, Joe Biden has since become the Democratic Party’s primary candidate and the opponent to Donald Trump in the November Elections.
Though of course, this isn’t an ordinary election cycle. COVID-19 has effectively put campaigning on hold, with President Donald Trump’s efforts solely focused on containing the virus, and Joe Biden relegated to hosting the occasional virtual meeting instead of going out campaigning. Needless to say, the election cycle will be and has been, vastly different this year.
For example, the previous debate between Biden and Sanders was held without an audience; as lockdowns and social distancing regulations were afoot. Now, the U.S. is experiencing roughly 2,000 deaths per day from the Coronavirus, and it’s uncertain what this will mean the election moving forward.
While Trump doesn’t have the power to delay the election himself, congress may enact legislation to do so should they deem it necessary — though this all depends on where we’re at with COVID-19 in the six-odd months leading up to the election.
So, at this stage, we must assume the show will go on. But who will come out on top?
Ordinarily, the rule is that “incumbent presidents usually win re-election,” which would suggest that Trump is on track to secure another four years. Moreover, Trump has declared the COVID-19 crisis a ‘biological war,’ making him a ‘war-time President’ to some extent. This is important as war-time presidents usually gain bipartisan favorability — that is to say, nations align behind their leaders in times of crisis.
However, it looks like COVID-19 has actually thrown a spanner in the works for Trump’s reelection, with many American’s feeling that he waited too long to take action on the pandemic. This has hurt Trump’s favorability on both sides of the aisle.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has received endorsements from virtually every prior Democrat candidate, including more recently, Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama. This will certainly bode well for Biden, helping to bridge the divide between his and Sanders’ more progressive supporter base.
Though fully winning over Sanders’ supporters will play a crucial role in Biden’s efforts to secure the presidency, as the two supporter bases occupied opposite poles during Sanders’ and Biden’s battle to become a primary candidate.
Sanders predominantly attracted younger voters, winning a resounding 61% of voters under 30, compared to Biden’s much smaller 17%. Sanders also beat Biden among voters aged between 30–44. Sanders had appealed to those who wanted major systemic change, rather than business as usual. Where Sanders lacked, however, was among older voters.
Evidently, for those on the Democrat side of the aisle who are over the age of 45, Biden has it in the bag. Though in order to earn the votes of the younger voters who looked to Bernie for real societal change, Biden will have to do more than simply receive an endorsement.
So what is a viable, societal change that Biden can get behind in order to attract younger voters? Cannabis.
Why Cannabis is a Key Issue for Young Voters
Cannabis was once a topic which politicians would tiptoe and dance around as best they could, so as to avoid causing a stir. Most politicians would avoid ever admitting they smoked the plant, or worse, some would say they never “inhaled.”
In 2020 and throughout 2019, things have certainly changed on that front. Virtually every other Democrat candidate supported legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, and many attribute the failure of Kamala Harris’ campaign to the very moment that Tulsi Gabbard said:
"I'm concerned about this record of senator Harris. She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana."
In the eyes of many, this was the moment Kamala’s campaign began to fall apart. Evidently, cannabis is a key issue for voters on the left side of the aisle, and this becomes more true when one looks at younger voters.
According to polling data by the Harvard Kennedy School of Politics, the plurality of young voters aged 18–29 support marijuana legalization, and nearly one-in-four young (23%) Americans stated they would be more likely to vote in an election where legalizing marijuana were on the ballot.
For Biden, making the case for cannabis would be pretty easy, despite his questionable statements on the plant in the past.
Simply adding cannabis legalization to Biden’s platform would likely swing some younger voters his way, as they already agree with the reasons behind cannabis legalization. Though for Biden’s base, who have supported him either in spite of — or, because of — his more traditional stance toward cannabis, Biden will have to ensure that they can understand his logic in wishing to legalize the plant.
Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the perfect time to make this legislative leap for Joe Biden when it comes to cannabis. While he may have to figure out his approach, so as to not encourage smoking during a respiratory pandemic, Biden could very easily run on the economic benefits of cannabis legalization.
With COVID-19 bringing economic activity to a standstill, many companies have been forced to shut down, and unemployment rates are sky-high. This will likely continue for many months — potentially well into November. Once the crisis has been properly grappled with, however, the economy will need to re-open, and business will need to resume. So how does cannabis fit into the equation?
Cannabis, as many will know, is the number one job creator in the US, and is the source of a great deal of economic stimulation and tax revenue. In Illinois, for example, where cannabis was most recently made legal, the state generated over $100 million in cannabis sales in just three months.
Moreover, the legalization of the plant creates many adjacent economic benefits such as increased hotel revenues for those in close proximity to a new cannabis dispensary, while showing no increases in teen cannabis consumption. Additionally, these benefits have only increased amid the coronavirus crisis, with cannabis dispensaries deemed “essential stores” and seeing enormous spikes in sales and revenue.
Clearly, the people want pot, so the question is, will Biden become pro-bud?