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Americans across party traces, regions embrace marijuana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) – Bill Stocker could possibly be thought-about the archetype of a conservative voter: He’s a retired Marine and former police officer who voted for President Donald Trump. But he’s additionally among the many majority of South Dakota voters who broadly legalized marijuana this month.

Stocker, 61, stated imposing marijuana legal guidelines will get in the way in which of pursuing different drug crimes and known as warnings in regards to the ills of marijuana “a bunch of baloney” that even individuals in a Republican stronghold like South Dakota not imagine.

South Dakota’s values of “personal responsibility and freedom” received out, stated Stocker, who lives in Sioux Falls.

The 2020 election helped show how broadly accepted marijuana has turn out to be all through the United States, with measures to legalize leisure pot additionally breezing to victory in progressive New Jersey, reasonable Arizona and conservative Montana. Fifteen states have now broadly legalized it, whereas 36 states enable medical marijuana.

Voters in Mississippi overwhelmingly accredited medical marijuana this month, giving the drug one other foothold within the South.

A Gallup Poll launched Nov. 9 indicated that 68% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana – double the approval price in 2003. That vast margin was evident within the election, with marijuana measures passing with sturdy bipartisan help.

In South Dakota and Montana – the place Republicans swept to victory in the important thing races – leisure marijuana handed with at the very least 16 proportion factors extra help than Democratic President-elect Joe Biden acquired. South Dakota additionally accredited medical pot, which outpolled Biden by 34 proportion factors.

“We’ve waged a war against this plant for a century and by any reasonable metric, that war has been an abject failure,” stated Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which favors legalization. “All it’s done is incarcerate millions of Americans, it has perpetuated racism in this country, and perhaps the worst injustice of all is that it’s deprived us of medical marijuana research.”

Marijuana continues to be unlawful on the federal degree, hurting veterans who can’t be prescribed medical pot at Veterans Affairs clinics, he stated.

They “come home with chronic pain and we’re pushing them to opioids,” Schweich stated. “That’s crazy. That’s unpatriotic and it’s a disgrace.”

Support for legalization was round 25% in 1992 when then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton tried to keep away from answering questions on whether or not he had used marijuana earlier than lastly saying in a tv interview that he had experimented with the drug, didn’t prefer it and “didn’t inhale.”

In early 2019, Kamala Harris – now the vice president-elect – was requested about her prior marijuana use throughout a radio interview and acknowledged: “I did inhale.”

Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. legal professional in South Dakota who supported the state’s marijuana initiatives, stated the marketing campaign targeted on the truth that lately 10% of arrests within the state had been for marijuana, and most had been small quantities.

“We have a real problem here where we have criminalized an entire generation of South Dakotans, and we’re paying a price,” Johnson stated.

The proprietor of a sequence of medical marijuana dispensaries in Billings, Montana, credited passage of the leisure marijuana initiative to a yearslong marketing campaign by medical marijuana supporters to teach the general public about the advantages of hashish.

“There has been a considerable change in the political demographic because people are educated, because they know Aunt Margaret tried it for her can-cer and she can eat,” stated Richard Abromeit, proprietor of Montana Advanced Caregivers.

Advocates’ subsequent purpose is to get marijuana faraway from a federal listing of unlawful medicine with no accepted medical use and excessive potential for abuse. The itemizing prevents labs from researching potential medical treatments utilizing marijuana.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer advised lawmakers final week that he would maintain a vote in December on a invoice that might decriminalize hashish, create a course of to expunge nonviolent pot convictions and take away the drug from the Controlled Substances Act. It’s not clear if the invoice might move each chambers.

The end result of two runoff elections in Georgia might decide how the difficulty may fare within the Senate, the place Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has impeded its progress.

Other states are anticipated to contemplate marijuana laws subsequent 12 months, which might put extra stress on Congress to behave.

Supporters argue that the business creates jobs and raises tax cash to assist prop up governments which might be hurting due to enterprise closures tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But some oppose broad legalization.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota argued that marijuana leads individuals to make use of different, more-addictive medicine, whereas regulation enforcement officers and prosecutors in Montana asserted that authorized pot would result in extra drugged driving and different crimes, whereas exacerbating psychological well being points.

The Gallup Poll says just below half of Republicans, individuals who establish as politically conservative and people who attend church on a weekly foundation say they suppose marijuana ought to be authorized.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, extensively referred to as the Mormon church, strongly opposed Arizona’s broad legalization measure regardless of supporting medical marijuana in Utah.

Chris Nylen, 50, of Flagstaff, Arizona, is a Trump supporter who voted to legalize leisure marijuana. She stated her emotions advanced after a CBD capsule, made out of hemp and prescribed by a veterinarian, eased her canine’s anxiousness and arthritis.

“I’m so old school,” she stated. “I personally don’t have a desire for it, but (I’m) seeing the benefits for my dog.”


Associated Press reporters Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana; Steven Groves in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona; and video journalist Haven Daley in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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