Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Pols and weed

Marijuana is a smoking topic these days. But The Washington Post has an interesting take on why politicians aren't pushing it.

Pols and weed

Perhaps you've noted that legalizing marijuana is a smoking-hot topic these days.

And maybe you saw that Gov. Corbett got some play on the issue after it was reported in the Harrisburg Patriot-News that the Guv's anti-weed position was "softening," at least with regard to medical marijuana.

Well, that report was quickly dashed by the Guv's office noting that what he said was he'd consider a shift only if the FDA approved weed for medical use which, as the Inky reported, ain't happening since such approval would have to be preceeded by medical trials, which can't happen so long as the drug remains a federally-banned substance.

What's interesting about the legalization debate was spelled out nicely by The Washington Post in a piece on why, even though weed is popular, most pols "still pass on grass."

You can read the Post piece here.

In a nutshell, it notes steadily rising support for legal marijuana in national polls, including a Gallup Poll showing such support growing from a low of 12% in 1969 to a substantial 58% in 2013.

But it also notes a paucity of pols publically supporting legalization even though two states, Washington and Colorado, have made it legal and many others allow its use for medical purposes.

Among pols opposing legalization are Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, as his state weighs legalization; Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Why? Well, pols are nothing if not cautious and are more than willing to wait and see how legalization plays out in other states; there's little to gain politically by publicly pushing legalization since a Pew Poll shows just 12% of Americans used marijuana in the past year while 32% believe such use is morally wrong.

And despite the issue's headline-grabbing ability, it is not a driving issue given ongoing concerns about the economy, unemployment benefits, etc., and pols prefer to display a focus on things of broad, immediate public concern.

So while a majority of the people back legalization, pols with the power to make it happen still are high on the status quo.

Smoke`em if ya got `em -- in Colorado or Washington.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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