Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson opposes legalizing marijuana, and he knows that his prohibitionist stance isn’t likely to win him any votes from young people.
Appearing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last Wednesday, Carson was asked whether his support primarily comes from voters who care about fiscal or social issues. Without direct prompting, the neurosurgeon who has never held political office responded that his stances opposing legalization of marijuana and marriage equality for LGBT people aren’t doing him any favors when it comes to attracting support from younger generations.
“When we have rallies, I see huge numbers of millennials and young people, and I know that they for the most part probably don’t agree with me on the definition of marriage or whether marijuana should be legalized,” he said.
But he added that for the most part, young voters are willing to look past their disagreements with the candidate on these social issues in favor of fiscal concerns. “They do understand that there’s somebody who is looking out for their future,” he said. “And understands the economic implications of our fiscal irresponsibility and what it would do to them.”
Carson isn’t the only 2016 candidate who knows a prohibitionist stance is a political loser. Last month, fellow Republican Rick Santorum, who opposes legalization, was asked why Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders seems to be drawing a lot of support from young people. “When you go out and say you’re gonna legalize drugs and do all sorts of great stuff, you get people showing up at your events,” he said.
While marijuana legalization and drug policy reform were once widely seen as dangerous third rails of politics to be avoided at all costs, polling now shows that a growing majority of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition and supermajorities support medical marijuana and letting states set their own laws without federal interference. And support for marijuana law reform is particularly high among younger voters: One survey showed that 63 percent of Republican millennials support legalization.
Even though he opposes full legalization, Carson does at least support medical marijuana. “Would I recommend medical marijuana? Absolutely,” he said at a campaign rally in Ohio. “I have no problem with medical marijuana. But that is very different from legalizing it for recreational use. I would not do that under any circumstances.”
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