The pathway for pot

Marijuana legalization is inevitable, but who will take up the issue?

Luis Ruuska

A recent Gallup poll showed that for the first time, a clear majority — 58 percent — of all Americans support legalizing marijuana, a 10 percent surge since last year.

Marijuana use has become less stigmatized with laziness and the munchies with each passing year.

Rather, thanks to smart branding and public outreach on behalf of its supporters, it has been transformed and touted as a safer and healthier recreational drug compared to alcohol and tobacco.

It’s undeniable that marijuana is going to become a huge part of public policy debates — and likely our culture — in the near future. But the question is who will take up the cause and make legalization a reality?

With 65 and 62 percent of self-identified Democrats and Independents, respectively, in support of marijuana legalization, compared to only 35 percent of Republicans, the GOP will likely not take up this issue any time soon. This is especially true without any pressure from their constituents.

But don’t be quick to assume that the Democrats are jumping the pot issue; in recent years, Democratic leaders’ attitudes toward pot have been anything but enthusiastic.

One can see this resistance right here at home with Gov. Mark Dayton’s staunch opposition to decriminalizing the possession of both medical and recreational marijuana.

Dayton blasted California’s handling of marijuana dispensaries late last year.

“In California, it’s just become a joke,” he said. “You just find doctors who will write you a prescription almost sight unseen.”

Outgoing Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has also vocalized his opposition to marijuana. Rybak heavily criticized marijuana users in 2010, saying, “Anybody who buys marijuana … is directly or indirectly giving money to gangs.”

Dayton and Rybak aren’t alone. Other top Democrats like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and prominent California senator Dianne Feinstein have both said they oppose the drug. Bloomberg went as far as to call the medical marijuana debate “one of the great hoaxes of all time.”

With the GOP out and the Democratic Party hardly in, who will take up the fight for marijuana?

The people, of course. At the end of the day, we the people are always the ones politicians come back to pander to.

As public support changes, politicians suddenly seem to “evolve” overnight and come out as harbingers of change and progress. This is best seen in the politicians that came out in support of same-sex marriage after Vice President Joe Biden did in 2012.

Ultimately, the path to legalizing pot is hazy. Will we see one or more presidential candidates support it in 2016? Which party will ultimately take up the issue? There is no clear answer to either of those questions.

One thing is clear, however: The marijuana issue has been lit ablaze, and there’s no chance it’ll be extinguished now. It’s just a matter of who’s willing to confront it.