It’s getting hard not to notice that many Republicans are starting to come around to supporting States’ Rights for legalized marijuana.
That’s not just in the Gallup poll from last year that showed a majority of voters who identify as Republican support legalizing marijuana. There also have been some high-profile officials recently who have come out to support cannabis.
Former Speaker of the House John Boehner, for one. He used to oppose legalized cannabis, now he’s joined the board of cannabis company Acreage Holdings. And even President Donald Trump assured Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner recently that the government wouldn’t crack down on states where cannabis is illegal.
It’s got to do with states’ rights (at least ostensibly) and tax revenue (most definitely).
What Is States’ Rights?
Trump, not known for taking strong positions on marijuana, has mentioned states’ rights the few times he has mentioned marijuana. In short, at least when it comes to medical marijuana, he seems to back the idea that states should decide the issue.
States’ rights is one of those issues that, frankly, can make your eyes glaze over just reading the phrase “states’ rights.” But for marijuana supporters or the cannabis curious who just want the chance to try marijuana legally, it could prove key.
Essentially, states’ rights arise out of the Constitution. That document named the federal government “the supreme law of the land,” but only if its acting within its Constitutionally approved powers. What exactly those power are has led to many debates and, in the case of the Civil War, a lot worse than that.
These days, the debate continues around such issues as climate change and immigration policy. Amendment 10 to the Constitution is often cited. You can read it here, but it essentially says rights not granted to the federal government by the Constitution fall back to the states.
Needless to say, the Constitution doesn’t mention marijuana.
As pointed out by the Los Angeles Times article, more GOP lawmakers than ever have come out in support of legalized marijuana in recent months.
One example of this is Gardner, the senator from Colorado. He opposed legalized recreational marijuana before that state’s voters approved it in 2012. Now, he defends the law on the grounds of states’ rights.
Any federal interference would take away the right of Colorado voters, he argues, who legalized cannabis at the ballot box.
Dollar signs also aren’t hurting. States such as Colorado, Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada are taking in millions in marijuana tax revenue and fees. Cash-starved states around the country are eyeing the dollars that cannabis could bring in. In Illinois, they’re hoping it would fix one of the biggest budget deficits in the country.
So, states’ rights is an issue that seems to come up when either political party finds it useful. But it’s a very real issue. When coupled with the millions that marijuana companies have now shown they can make – and the taxes and fees those profits generate – it might provide the perfect political combination marijuana supporters have hoped for.