Hispanics are less likely to back legalization than either white or black voters, according to a poll released last month by the Pew Research Center.
46The percentage of Hispanic voters who say marijuana should be legal, according to the Pew Research
Forty-six percent of Hispanics said the drug should be legal, while 49 percent said it should remain illegal, the poll found. By comparison, big majorities of both black and white voters – 59 percent – said it was time to end the federal prohibition on marijuana.
Latinos could determine who moves into the White House – and they may also be the deciding votes in either direction on the marijuana initiatives.
Sarah Trumble, Third Way think tank
“Latinos could determine who moves into the White House – and they may also be the deciding votes in either direction on the marijuana initiatives,” said Sarah Trumble, deputy director of social policy for Third Way, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.
Four of the nine states voting on marijuana legalization measures have large and growing Hispanic populations: Florida, California, Nevada and Arizona
Four of the nine states voting on marijuana legalization measures have large and growing Hispanic populations: Florida, California, Nevada and Arizona. In Florida, for example, Hispanics strongly favor Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, over Republican Donald Trump, and they make up more than 15 percent of the state’s voters.
“How they vote on marijuana will have a major impact – not only in Florida, California, Nevada and Arizona tomorrow – but also on future policy and public opinion, given the demographic shifts the nation is undergoing,” Trumble said.
Pot backers hope that 2016 will mark a turning point in their long drive to legalize the drug. If the votes go their way, nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population could live in states with legalized recreational marijuana.
“These ballot measures are all big steps forward for the marijuana policy reform movement regardless of their outcome on Election Day,” said Mason Tvert, communications director of the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project. He said the national debate had shifted “from whether marijuana should be legalized to how it can best be regulated and taxed.”
These ballot measures are all big steps forward for the marijuana policy reform movement regardless of their outcome on Election Day.
Mason Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project
President Barack Obama jumped into the debate last Friday, saying the federal government will likely have to rethink its ban on marijuana if the legalization measures pass Tuesday.
In an interview with Bill Maher on HBO, Obama said the Justice Department, FBI and drug-enforcement agents would have a hard time figuring out “how they’re supposed to enforce laws in some places and not in others,” particularly if state voters decide to legalize the drug through the entire Pacific corridor.
“That is not going to be tenable,” said Obama, who has opposed federal marijuana legalization but has allowed states to sell and tax the drug.
The most-watched votes Tuesday will be in five states – California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine – that will decide whether to fully legalize and regulate marijuana. They would join four states that already allow using the drug for recreational purposes: Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon.
Voters in Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas will decide whether to approve marijuana for medical use, while Montana residents will vote on whether to loosen restrictions on the state’s medical marijuana laws. Twenty-five states have already approved medical marijuana.
California, the first state to approve medical marijuana, in 1996, represents the biggest prize for legalization backers.
On Friday, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco told the Los Angeles Times that she plans to vote for legalization. She’s at odds with Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who opposes it.
Trumble said female voters would be another group that could be key in determining the outcome of the nine ballot measures.
While a large number of female voters could help Clinton, Trumble said polls had found that women were less likely to back legalization than men, particularly older women and Republican women.
“How many women – and of what age and political persuasion – the Clinton turnout effort delivers is likely to be key,” Trumble said.