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This week, The Atlantic took on the question of whether or not medical marijuana will help any political candidates in the coming election.
Acting on a tip from an Obama official, I found a few Democratic consultants who have become convinced that ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana, like the one Californians will vote on in November, actually help Democrats in the same way that gay marriage bans were supposed to have helped Republicans. They are similarly popular, with medical marijuana having passed in 14 states (and the District of Columbia) where it has appeared on the ballot. In a recent poll, 56 percent of Californians said they favor the upcoming initiative to legalize and tax pot.
The idea that this helps Democrats is based on the demographic profile of who shows up to vote for marijuana initiatives—and wouldn't show up otherwise. "If you look at who turns out to vote for marijuana," says Jim Merlino, a consultant in Colorado, which passed initiatives in 2000 and 2006, "they're generally under 35. And young people tend to vote Democratic." This influx of new voters, he believes, helps Democrats up and down the ticket.
The legalization movement appears to be gaining steam. As many as a half-dozen states could consider the issue this fall. If the correlation Merlino describes really exists, then Democrats will have an advantage in those states. Does it?