Opinion: The Biden campaign needs to pivot to marijuana | Chattanooga Times Free Press

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As President Joe Biden looks to boost his re-election campaign and his rosy poll numbers, there’s one policy stance that’s popular with voters, helping to unite Democrats and Republicans scrambling to respond. It’s time to come out in support of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

There’s even a playbook for the new space. In the year In 2012, then-Vice President Biden made the first public push to help President Barack Obama end the fence on marriage equality — a view that has changed and evolved over two decades, as has much of America.

Now, Biden is stuck in the middle as his party and public opinion decide the issue. According to a Gallup poll released earlier this month, 70% of Americans think marijuana use should be legal. At the same time, 24 states have moved forward on their own and legalized recreational use, the latest being Ohio where voters approved a ballot measure. According to Politico, more than half of the nation’s adult population lives where weed is legal, so it seems clear that this is an issue Democrats can embrace without worrying about the backlash.

What’s more, Vice President Kamala Harris could take the first step — just as Biden did for Obama on marriage equality.

In the long run, it made sense for Biden to back off from public opinion on this issue, despite the short-term positive publicity. Presidents polarize. Biden in 2012 If he runs on legalization in 2020 or moves strongly toward it in the presidential primary, he risks strong opposition among Republicans. It also undermines prospects for change and cancels out any benefits of public opinion. In the year As a candidate in 2020 it made more sense to oppose legalization and as president he has taken modest steps in that direction.

Moreover, it is an issue that unites Democrats. A Gallup poll found that 87% of all Democrats support legalization, while 55% of Republicans support legalization and 45% oppose it. No one policy position will determine an election, but having a 70/30 issue on the fringes that divides the other side of the public is definitely a net plus with voters. And many choices depend on the edge.

Meanwhile, anything that raises the bar for legitimacy will create tension among Republicans. Organized groups within the party still oppose marijuana, but the issue is popular with many GOP voters. It’s the kind of situation Republican politicians prefer not to talk about. But if the president is talking about a policy area, politicians from both parties will have a hard time nailing it.

Harris making the first move makes sense for several reasons. As a former prosecutor and criminal justice reformer, her own record on marijuana has been complicated, but she has supported legalization in the past. Just saying that maybe Biden has to take strong action now will help cement her position as a reformer. If Biden follows her lead, it will show her real influence in the administration — something all vice presidents strive to do. As for Biden, the people who care about him are only concerned with where he got there, not how he got there.

In the year We can’t know exactly how many votes a strong legalization party will win for Democrats in 2024. But adopting a popular position that unites the party and divides Republicans can help.

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