NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Democrats could gain an edge in November midterm elections as marijuana ballot initiatives bring out younger voters who traditionally lean Democratic, argues U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, one of the elected officials who has been most vocal in advocating for reform of U.S. marijuana laws.
Asked during a recent interview with TheStreet whether the issue could be a deciding factor in November, Cohen said, "I don't know that it will, but it could, because I think it will get people out to vote. It will increase turnout of young people who otherwise voted for Obama and otherwise will not vote, because they're just not tuned into the process. But this is something that'll get a lot of people tuned in and interested in politics."
A George Washington University poll conducted in March found 53% of Americans in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession, with 44% opposed to the idea. Sixty nine percent of Americans, meanwhile, said they would be more likely to vote in an election if it included a ballot proposal to legalize the use of marijuana. And 79% of those polled believe marijuana should be made legal for medical use.
If an initiative can make it on the ballot in Cohen's neighboring state of Arkansas, he believes it will help Democratic Senator Mark Pryor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross."I don't know what the problems are, but the authorities have found every way in the world to thwart them putting it on the ballot again, because I think they know it'll bring out the vote. If it brings out the vote, it's liable that there'll be a Democrat Mike Ross elected governor, that it will help Mark Pryor. Mark Pryor is probably not for marijuana legalization, but if young people come out and vote, and they vote on a medical marijuana issue and they've got to vote for Pryor or [Tom] Cotton, more of them are going to vote for Pryor, I think, because they're going to realize he's going to be better on the issue," Cohen said. The Congressman also pointed to a measure that will be on the ballot in Alaska that would make it legal to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to grow limited amounts of it in private. "That'll help [Sen. Mark] Begich," Cohen predicted. "It's going to be a big issue for getting out the vote." Follow @dan_freed