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Legalizing marijuana? Americans support it, but not enough to sway their vote in 2020

Support for legal marijuana use up to 65 percent
CBS News poll: Support for legal marijuana use up to 65 percent 05:13

A majority of Americans support legalizing cannabis, but a recent CBS News poll found the issue may not have have much sway from voters. According to the poll, 65 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal, but 56 percent said the issue wouldn't sway their vote for a candidate across party lines.

The poll was released just ahead of April 20, or "420 Day," one of the most recognized dates in cannabis culture.

Attention to cannabis reform has steadily climbed in the country this year as decriminalization has become a stance supported by many of the 2020 democratic presidential hopefuls.

In February, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a 2020 Democratic hopeful, reintroduced the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would legalize marijuana and has a criminal justice component that would expunge federal convictions for possession or use of the drug. Co-sponsors of that bill include fellow 2020 Democratic hopefuls Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Warren has also introduced legislation with bipartisan support that would provide protection from federal enforcement for participants in state regulated programs.

Earlier this month, Democratic presidential candidate Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, whose state was one of the first in the country to legalize recreational marijuana, said he would recommend legalizing marijuana for the country.

Mona Zhang, who has covered the shift in marijuana policy across the U.S., joined CBS News' Alex Denis last week, saying that even though the issue may not solely move the needle in favor of a particular candidate, it has potential to energize voters.

"The issue has such strong support from the voting public and even though marijuana reform, and policy reform in general is a low salience issue for voters, it does turn out voters especially if it's on the state ballot," said Zhang, who also edits a newsletter covering marijuana policy.

"Say, for example, if Florida has a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, that could draw out a lot of young voters [and]  it could draw a lot of left leaning voters and that could make a difference in a general election," Zhang said.

When party lines are taken into account, the CBS poll found that Republicans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports marijuana legalization, while Democrats would be more likely to.

Zhang said se thinks cannabis reform could be a key thread during the Democratic primaries.

"It doesn't look great for a Democratic candidate to oppose something like legalization, which is something that 60 percent of Americans support at this point," Zhang said.

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