What is twenty-five million all about? It is the number of people who have used marijuana in any given year.
Since 1990 a reported 20.5 million people have used marijuana in an average year. From 1990 to 2005 annual usage was at its greatest reported level in 2002 at 25.9 million and its lowest level in 17.4 million in 1992. (See Table 1.)So let me see what that means for politics. The vote totals for this last Presidential election are 66,316,572 for Obama and 58,013,719 for McCain. A difference of 8,302,853. So let us be conservative about pot smokers and say there are 25 million of them. How many would be needed to tie the popular vote? About 1/3rd. If most of them vote Democrat (as popular perception would have it) even less - if they switch to the Republicans.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health and its predecessor, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, are among the most professional, sophisticated, and reliable population surveys conducted. Nonetheless, for both practical and methodological reasons they do not provide a complete accounting of drug use in the United States. For example in 2002 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revised its data collection procedures and increased their estimate of annual marijuana users from 21.1 million (as reported in the 2001 survey results) to 25.7 million.(9) NSDUH is a very extensive survey, and in 2002 respondents were paid to complete the entire survey. While this improved data collection, it also calls attention to incomplete data collection in prior years. At best, NSDUH provides data on the minimum number of drug users in the country.
A report by ONDCP on drug consumption in the United States includes this explanation why surveys likely underreport drug use:"These estimates may be low. Users are likely to under report socially disapproved behaviors, even when those behaviors are legal. They would seem to have even more incentive to under report illegal behaviors. Given under reporting rates for tobacco and alcohol use, it might be reasonable to inflate marijuana estimates by about one-third."(10)
My question is - why isn't any party actively courting their vote?
Of course the Republicans can't do it. They have a Culture War to maintain. And the Democrats? It seems like a wink and a nod is good enough while they prosecute the Drug War even more fiercely than the Republicans.
A party that went after that vote in the current climate need not go whole hog. It could make Medical Marijuana a states rights issue. It seems perfect for a Republican Party that stands for Cultural and Economic Liberty. Or heck even a Democrat Party that only stands for cultural Liberty.
Of course such a move might not be enough to win Presidential elections, after all that depends on the votes in individual States. Still, if the Republicans adopted it it would prove their bonafides in moving to end the Culture War.
And how about that map of the States just linked to above? Eleven States have decriminalized Marijuana use. One of them is Mississippi. Another is Alaska. Thirteen have medical marijuana laws. (I did a quick count so some one correct me if I made an error). The trends are obvious. And as they say in day trading - the trend is your friend.
Cross Posted at Classical Values