Following the approval of marijuana legalization in both Colorado and Washington State, the big question is how will the Obama administration respond given that marijuana is still illegal under federal law? If President Obama wants to respect the will of the electorate he should leave both states alone and let them set their own marijuana policy.
According to a recent CBS News poll taken after the election, Americans overwhelmingly think marijuana policy should be an issue left up to the individual states. The poll found that 59 percent of Americans think state governments should have the power to decide whether or not marijuana is legal. By comparison, only 34 percent think marijuana’s legal status should be determined by the federal government.
There is broad bipartisan consensus that marijuana legalization is a states’ rights issue. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents think the issue should be left to states.
What is interesting following the approval of marijuana legalization in two states is that Republicans still remain the partisan group that most strongly believes marijuana should be a states’ rights issue. Two-thirds of Republicans think states should decide marijuana’s legality, even though only 27 percent of Republicans think marijuana should be legal.
While nationally Republicans believe the voters in Colorado and Washington State made a bad call by legalizing marijuana, they overwhelming think these states should have the right to make this decision. They think the principle of federalism is more important than keeping marijuana illegal throughout the entire country.
Obama is going to need to think twice before interfering with the new marijuana legalization laws. He risks not only a political backlash from supporters of marijuana, but also among many voters who oppose marijuana legalization but believe it is a states’ rights issue.