Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
New Jersey has just legalized medical marijuana. A California House Committee has approved marijuana for recreational use. New polling in Washington state shows a solid majority of voters in favor of legalization.
That voters would be sympathetic to permitting pot -- or at least legalizing it for medicinal purposes -- isn't anything new. Most of the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana did so via ballot measure.
What's new is that legislators seem more openly sympathetic to pot. It's taken a while for lawmakers to take the message from the ballot measures: Pot is politically safe, at least in most states. The Obama administration's decision to let states create their own policies on medical marijuana also is creating momentum in this direction.
As a result, I'm wondering whether pot can really be a political winner -- whether candidates can win votes by campaigning for more permissive marijuana rules. Sure, medicinal marijuana is reasonably popular, but is it really an issue that will determine which candidate a voter supports? Given the shift going on in state legislatures, we'll probably have an answer to that question soon.
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