As the presidential primary marathon trudges along to the state of Nevada, a unique media silence has fallen where just weeks ago there was endless speculation about polls in the leadup to the Silver State’s sister caucus in Iowa (much of it errant). The reason is simple: where Iowa conducted nine polls in the month of January in the lead-up to their Cruz upset and Clinton coin-flip victory, Nevada has conducted just six in the last year. Nevada’s caucus is a mystery for a few more days, but one thing is for sure: Nevadans are watching the coverage of their upcoming caucus with great interest, because many of them hope that another item on the 2016 ballot will be very closely tied to the outcome of these primaries.
The straightforwardly-named Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative could make the state another in a series of tumbling dominos taking viable medical industries and supplementing them with new recreational counterparts. And with the most vocally anti-marijuana candidate left in the field, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—”“Marijuana is against the law in the states [that have passed legislation allowing it]...it should be enforced in all 50 states”—finally let his corrupt and egomaniacal campaign whimper out of existence, one more round in the Russian Roulette game cannabis faces in the 2016 presidential race. Someone on the Republican side (Marco Rubio for my money) will probably decide to take up Christie’s mantle of “Prohibition now, prohibition tomorrow, prohibition forever,” and add that bullet back into the gun, but the field as of now is largely on a spectrum from pro-legalization to pro-states rights, which for the time being is enjoying an unusual vogue on the Left wing—at least on the issue of cannabis.
The other state in play at the moment is South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary on the 20th with its Democratic counterpart coming a week later. As opposed to Nevada, whose history with both medical marijuana and controlled vices of all kinds makes it a more than viable candidate for full legalization, South Carolina’s frankly opposite culture when it comes to cutting loose means that its experience with legal cannabis is limited treatment for cancer, glaucoma and AIDS. Those baby steps, designed to treat people in extreme pain with a much-needed and scientifically proven method of relief, were nonetheless opposed by the state’s top law enforcement officials. One hears a lot in political discussion about knee-jerk liberalism, but up to this point much of the political knee-jerking has been has been markedly further right on the spectrum, from demon weed to border walls to immigration embargos.
As Super Tuesday inches closer through a muck of analysis and commentary—to which even I am guilty of contributing—it becomes clearer and clearer that state solutions to cannabis are still the best political bet for 2016. While Bernie Sanders has mentioned moving for full legalization, the majority of viable candidates are in favor of continuing to allow states to make up their own minds on legal pot. For Nevada, California, Maine, and Arizona, this could mean outright legalization, which would hopefully deter cross-border trafficking in all those states, as well as generate jobs and tax revenue. For others—Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont—long-shot initiatives keep hope intact, but sluggish state legislatures make it seem like, at least for now, many states simply aren’t willing to take what they perceive as an unnecessary political risk on behalf of cannabis. But it is, after all, still only February, and if voters in those states and others make it known in the coming months that ending a costly and unnecessary prohibition is a high priority, it’s not too late to make a serious change happen in 2016.