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Democratic Group Sees Political Value In Marijuana

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The head of a top Democratic-affiliated political organization says that the party can use marijuana to its political advantage.

“I don’t think there’s any question that in the places where we’ve seen legalization on the ballot that it has increased interest in the election on the part of young voters in particular, that it’s increased turnout in those states,” Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, a well-funded organization that backs Democratic candidates.

Its sister group, Priorities USA Action, is a super PAC that supported President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection effort as well as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. It is now focused on trying to help Democrats retake the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

But Cecil said that even though marijuana is good politics for Democrats, there are other reasons to support legalization.

“That’s not the reason somebody should be for it, but I certainly it’s a winner in terms of just the pure politics of it and the election,” he said. “Especially again when you’re dealing with a midterm where we’ve seen participation rates drop pretty steeply.”

The comments, part of a C-SPAN interview taped last week that aired on Sunday, come as a growing number of prominent Democratic lawmakers are getting on board with legalization.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), for example, announced last month that after a career spent championing the “war on drugs,” be would soon be introducing legislation to deschedule cannabis. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) this month reversed her long-held position that the federal government should prosecute people who are complying with state marijuana laws.

Younger Democrats like Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who are both reportedly considering 2020 presidential runs — are way out front on legalization.

Cecil, who previously served as executive director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and as field director for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, said that support for ending marijuana prohibition is strong across the country.

“Certainly nationally you’re well over a majority of folks that have expressed approval for legalization,” he said.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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