A new poll suggests a majority of Republican voters support a range of cannabis reform proposals, from legalizing medical marijuana and facilitating expungements of prior cannabis convictions to allowing states to determine their own approach to cannabis policy free from federal intervention.
The survey was commissioned by the National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR), a lobby group of marijuana businesses, and the findings come with the midterm elections looming and several Republican candidates running on an anti-cannabis platform.
According to the NCR, support for federal non-interference in states that have legalized cannabis stands at 76 percent among Republican voters, while 56 percent are in favor of expungements in legal states and 73 percent believe the marijuana industry should receive the same treatment as any other business. Support for full federal legalization was more evenly split, with 47 percent in favor and 46 percent against.
So far, Congress has yet to approve legislation to these effects, with GOP lawmakers as a whole primarily concerned with shielding banks that service state-legal cannabusinesses from federal reprisals, a policy that has the backing of 65 percent of Republican voters. Marijuana banking reform legislation in the form of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act has also stalled in Congress, with leading Senate lawmakers wary of advancing such a bill until comprehensive federal cannabis reform has passed.
As a compromise, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) has suggested “SAFE Banking Plus” which would include social equity provisions to boost minority participation in the industry in addition to marijuana banking protections. Joyce anticipates that the final version of this bill will be introduced in either November or December. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is minded towards full federal legalization though, having filed the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity (CAO) Act to end federal prohibition in July.
The NCR survey was carried out by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates who interviewed 1,000 voters identifying as Republican. The results come with a +/- 3.8 percentage point margin of error.
Commenting on the results, NCR advisory board member and former Sen. Cory Cardner (R-CO) argues that Republican support for cannabis reform is likely to grow.
“We’ll likely see support for legal cannabis continue to increase this November when Republicans in at least a half dozen states and counties vote on legalization and other issues,” he said. “Which is why it’s time for Congress to enact commonsense cannabis reform this year, starting with key pieces of legislation like SAFE Banking.”
Joyce, meanwhile, believes Congress has to start reflecting the bipartisan nature of voter sentiments on cannabis reform.
“Congress needs to act in a bipartisan manner and enact the change that Americans, both Republicans and Democrats alike, are calling for,” he said. “It’s past time for the federal government to respect the will of the states that have legalized cannabis in some form and allow them to make their own decisions in the best interest of their constituents without interference from Washington.”
However, the congressional and gubernatorial contests at the upcoming midterms in Pennsylvania have seen candidates at loggerheads over marijuana legalization. The Democratic nominee for the governorship, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, wants to legalize recreational cannabis while the Republican’s pick, Sen. Doug Mastriano, has described it as a “stupid idea.”
Two of the candidates in Pennsylvania’s Senate election campaign, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and “Dr. Oz” (R) are similarly opposed on the issue.