You have power! You can change history, seat candidates and govern policy, all with one simple act: voting. When enough people vote, they pick the winners … and losers … and seat individuals in the halls of government to enact their world view. In fact, with some exceptions, the ballot box begat marijuana legalization, from no fine no time local initiatives to ground breaking full legal constitutional amendments.  

Cannabis consumers – aka voters – carry political clout. They are passionate about their cause and oftentimes vote single issue. They push progressive agendas that radiate outward from marijuana alone.

Marijuana vote, by the numbers.

The U.S. Census publishes an Excel spreadsheet of “Reported Voting and Registration, for States: November 2018” that enumerates citizens and actual voters in that election. How many might think cannabis while pulling the proverbial lever? Those use it regularly, say, in the last 30 days might. A tabulation from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimates the number of those 18 and over – possibly voters – who do just that. Please see this table.

The influence of the “marijuana vote” is telling: states with the highest number of marijuana users are also among those that have the highest percentages of registered voters (Colorado 89% - California 84% - Oregon 84%). Generally speaking, these are Democratic states. Further, states with marijuana laws also experience much greater rates of voter turnout.  

By sheer numbers, monthly users represented 11% of the U.S. electorate in November 2018 - a whopping 13 million Americans, 401,000 of them Ohioans! That’s political power, baby!

Remember, elections are oftentimes won or lost  on the thinnest of margins. The marijuana vote can tip the balance.

How to make your marijuana vote count.

First, show up and vote, whether in person or via an absentee ballot. Make sure you follow instructions to the letter. Some tips from the Columbus Free Press can be found here.

Vote strategically – for what you believe in (cannabis) and those candidates that best support you. In Ohio, since no gubernatorial races or U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs, your ballot will mostly consist of president, along with your representatives to the U.S. House, Ohio House, Ohio Senate and a possible ballot issue.

President. The 2020 choice for President of the United States is decidedly binary. Despite highly-qualified Green Party (Howie Hawkins) and Libertarian Party (Jo Jorgensen) candidates, the election is boiling down to a battle of Goliaths between current President Donald J. Trump (Republican) and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden (Democrat). Where do they stand on marijuana, and do they deserve your influential vote?

Donald Trump. His attitude toward cannabis is best described as nebulous big dollop of dangerous. With no Republican platform, no vision for a second term and no regard for the truth, it’s tough to determine where he stands. No, the feds haven’t raided licensees in legal states and yes, he signed the 2018 Farm bill legalizing hemp. But the Trump Administration on drugs holds more negatives than positives. Trump paints himself a grim law and order tough guy, who dispatches the DEA as a militarized force to Democratic cities, compels Veterans Administration officials to testify against service member access to medical cannabis, seeks to impose the death penalty on drug traffickers and crafts a 2021 budget that removes state level protections for marijuana laws. He has dog whistled the decades old parents movement to “keep it federally illegal,” which runs counter to hopes for the plant.

Joe Biden, yes, he is a former drug warrior whose work reformers labored years to deconstruct. He co-sponsored numerous pieces of anti-drug legislation that included: expanding civil asset forfeiture, imposing the death penalty on drug kingpins, barring those with misdemeanor drug convictions from possessing firearms, and prohibiting ads for Schedule 1 substances like cannabis, to name a few. However, every politician has his moment of truth. “There’s got to be a better way for a humane society to figure out how to deal with that problem [marijuana],” he said. Democrats do have a platform that states, “It is past time to end the failed “War on Drugs.” They go on to write:

“Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs. Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level. We will support legalization of medical marijuana, and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use. The Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level. All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged.”

It should also be noted that, despite Biden’s trepidation, Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris is the lead sponsor of the MORE Act in the U.S. Senate, which would legalize marijuana by removing it from federal scheduling. 

U.S. House Races. Every two years, members of the U.S. House of Representatives come up for reelection. In Ohio according to CannabisVoter which examines voting records, stances on marijuana are somewhat split, but weighted toward “Yes” – voting favorably on cannabis-related legislation. Five Ohio reps maintain a reliably “Yes” stance (one of them Republican David Joyce), while six (all Republicans) are staunchly “No.”  The remaining five are evolving into yes.  

Interestingly, this analysis of Ohio’s voting record lays bare the impact of gerrymandered districts with some crossing as many as 18 counties. The most gerrymandered counties have staunchly “no” reps.

The objective is to vote out the “No” reps and educate those who are evolving. For example, if you live in the “Yes” districts of 3, 9, 11, 13 and 14, vote for your present rep. If you call the “No” districts of 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 home, then vote for the other guy or gal. You can look your district here.

Ohio House and Senate Races. For the second election cycle in a row, the Ohio Cannabis Activist Network (OCAN) has circulated a cannabis-related voter guide drafted from responses to a four-question survey that was emailed to every Ohio House and Senate candidate. Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of Republican incumbents and candidates chose NOT to reply. Those running for the Ohio House and Senate who did respond favorably and deserve your vote are: (You can look up your Ohio House and Senate districts on this map.)

For the Ohio Senate: Kathy Wyenandt (D) District 4; Mark Fogel (D) District 6; Ryan Ottney (D) District 14; Craig Swartz (D) District 26; Senator Vernon Sykes (D) District 28; and Michael Fletcher (D) District 30.

For the Ohio House: Sam Grady (D) [Write in] District 2; Laurel Johnson (D) District 3; Daniel Winston (D) District 5; Representative Jessica Miranda (D) District 28; Representative Tavia Galonski (D) District 35; Amy Cox (D) District 43; Shane Logan (R) District 45; Chris Stanley (D) District 59; Adam Dudziak (D) District 61; Erin Rosiello (D) District 62; Alan Darnowsky (D) District 65;  Kevin Barnet (D) District 70;  Kim McCarthy (D) District 73; Garrett Westhoven (D) District 76; Beth Workman (D) District 94; and Oscar Herrera (L) District 96.  

In OCAN’s words, “while the legalization of cannabis continues to be a popular non-partisan issue among consumers, patients, advocates, and activists, the issue sadly remains a partisan one within the Ohio political arena.” The Marijuana Vote can change that.

Ballot issues. A total of four issues to reduce marijuana possession penalties to the lowest allowed by state law with no fine are on the ballot in four small Ohio cities. NORML Appalachia of Ohio Regional chapter is sponsoring three: Glouster (Issue 4), Trimble (Issue 8) and Jacksonville (Issue 7). Bill Schmitt, Jr. fielded Adena (Issue 4) with assistance of the Sensible Movement Coalition. If approved by voters (check to see if you’re one of them), these towns will join 18 other Ohio cities that have rejected cannabis prohibition.

This is how social change happens. Whether the Democratic Party platform, the evolving U.S. and State legislatures or ballot issues even in the smallest of towns, the impact of the marijuana vote being felt nationwide. Remember, when enough people vote, they enact their world view. Make sure you cast yours by November 3rd!