A recent report by analyst Bobby Burleson at Cannacord Genuity, an investment banking and financial services company, concluded that “the outlook for the legal US cannabis market is improving” both state and federal levels. Burleson cites polls that demonstrate strong support for ballot initiatives in states like Arizona and South Dakota, while governors of other states such as New York and Pennsylvania are making encouraging noises about rapid roll-outs for recreational programs. Burleson also references polling by aggregator FiveThirtyEight, which shows a 75% likelihood of a Democratic majority in the senate, boding well for cannabis legalization at the federal level. Recent statements by Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris about decriminalizing marijuana further improve the outlook.
It is not overly simplistic to equate a Democratic senate majority and executive office victory with a bright future for cannabis legalization, as historically Democrats have demonstrated more consistent support for legalization in greater numbers than Republicans. In fact, legalization has been one of the stand-out campaign issues polarizing Dems and Republicans over the last decade, though this gap seems to be shrinking as Republicans look to win battleground states like Pennsylvania. There, swing voters are in support of legalization and Governor Tom Wolf is calling on legislators to expedite legalization of recreational marijuana as one means of recovering from the economic hit of Covid-19.
A November 2019 Pew Research Study showed that two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization, with only 32% opposing. While proportions vary in terms of those who support legalization solely for medical use (32%) or medical and recreational use (59%), a survey conducted on Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel in September 2019 revealed that only 8% of those surveyed prefer to keep marijuana illegal in all circumstances. This trend showed no signs of changing course as 2019 rolled into 2020. In the run-up to the election, fifty-eight percent of all likely voters (54% of whom identified as Republican) supported legalization for adults use (Data For Progress). In addition, 60% of Republicans polled in support of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) introduced to the senate by Kamala Harris, which would decriminalize marijuana and allow certain marijuana offenses to be expunged from an individual’s record.
As the clock ticks down to the final vote count, however long that may take, it appears that whether the executive branch and Congress go red or blue this election season, cannabis legalization is one campaign issue poised to benefit from growing bipartisan support and an impetus to be competitive in the cannabis market at the state level.