Last week, state Rep. Melissa Sargent came out in support of the legalization of marijuana. And earlier this month, members of the Dane County Board proposed an advisory referendum on the concept. Yes, another one.
Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, I wonder if it might be time for gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke to take another look at the issue. Both Burke and her potential primary opponent Kathleen Vinehout have given tepid-to-moderate support for legalizing medical marijuana, but neither has taken the bolder step towards supporting full legalization.
In an interview with the Cap Times Burke said, "I don't think that's where the people of Wisconsin are at." But a recent poll showed about half the population of the state would support full legalization.
The legalization of marijuana seems like a silly issue to me. I don't use it, I don't like it, I always sound like a narc when I talk about it. Alcohol has always been my drug of choice. In fact, I think we need more education for youth on the potential lung issues they could face from smoking, even if they aren't smoking tobacco.
But it is something people are passionate about -- particularly people who don't care much about politics.
Right now, both the Walker and the Burke campaigns are fighting for a relatively small portion of the Wisconsin electorate. As The Washington Post put it, Walker has a low ceiling and a high floor. Somewhere around 45% of voters love him (or at least hate public employees) and 45% of voters hate him. In addition to boosting turnout amongst their 45%, both sides are trying to win that small slice in between. Every bit of Burke's platform is built around towards attracting these folks -- the couple from Kenosha, as the candidate put it in an interview with Isthmus.
The fight for the undecided likely voter is the fight we will see play out in Wisconsin for the next ten months, unless Burke decides to try and mobilize a whole group that isn't even on the table. Even with everything that has happened in Wisconsin since 2011, there are tons of people who don't care one bit about state politics. They are the folks who only vote in Presidential elections, or don't vote at all.
These are the people who say "both parties are just the same." But a candidate for governor who pledges to legalize weed -- that might make them take notice.
It could also help deflect criticism of her campaign. The GOP says Burke will just be the reincarnation of Governor Doyle. Well, Jim Doyle never did anything like this. It would also deflect the generic "nanny state" and "big government" criticism that Democratic candidates get, particularly women.
This could even help with the base. The war on drugs is having a disastrous effect on our state’s urban areas, and this could be a step by Burke to do something about it.
Mary Burke's is a moderate middle-of-the-road candidate. But moderate doesn't have to be boring. Scott Walker dropped the bomb, maybe it is Mary Burke's time to drop the bong.