Author note: Julie A. Werner-Simon is a law professor adjunct at Drexel University School of Law and teaches Marijuana Law: History, the Constitution & Best Business Practices.
The November 2020 presidential election broke records. More votes were cast for president (some 165 million) than ever before in our history.
We have not surpassed this percentage of voters in a presidential election (approximately 67%) in 120 years, that is, since the election of William McKinley and his Vice president Theodore Roosevelt in 1900 at 73.7%.
However, this uptick of participation in the political process has revealed entrenched partisanship. This, when coupled with what we witnessed on the steps of the capitol, shows that we are a nation riven by polarization. Reminiscent of 1860, as the nation splintered over slavery, we appear hopelessly divided by what the framers called “faction,” or as it is known today “political tribalism.”
Our politics (riffing on James Madison’s Federalist Papers Number 10) has devolved into jersey-wearing domestic factions with “citizens united and actuated in some common impulse . . . adverse to the rights of other citizens.” Social scientists have confirmed that 21st-century politics is less about principles and more like allegiances to home-town sports teams with many voters, quoting a University of Kansas study, “caring more about . . . winning . . . than they do [about] ideology or issues.”
But partisan-Mason Dixon divisions have not infused every political issue. There is one that trumps the jersey, and has done so from the mountains to the prairies: it is cannabis legalization. Blue, red, and purple states voted green this past November.
Five states from diverse regions of the country had cannabis on the ballot in November, specifically: Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. And as Rolling Stone magazine “vernacularly” noted, “[e]very single weed initiative passed