So a majority of delegates at last week's Colorado Democratic Convention and Assembly voted to express support for Amendment 64, the "Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act," which will be on the November ballot. Big news, right? A state party endorsing the legalization of marijuana?
Well, not exactly. First of all, according to the party's rules, only the state central committee can officially endorse an initiative; delegates can just indicate their support. Second, consider who was a delegate to the convention. These were largely people who were elected at their county conventions and who had been originally selected at the precinct caucuses in early March. And the Democratic precinct caucuses contained very few contested races -- only one presidential candidate, no gubernatorial or senatorial races, etc. So these were really the die-hard Democrats who bothered to show up. Chances are, they're not very representative of state Democratic voters as a whole or of state Democratic officeholders.
Now, just by indicating their support for the initiative, they may put some pressure on Democratic candidates to do the same, just to avoid alienating the die-hard activists. But at least so far, prominent Democrats haven't been scrambling to endorse the thing.
Do Democrats at large generally poll as supporting legalization?
I suspect that it depends how the question is asked, but the trendline is towards support marijuana legalization among all voters and Democrats, of course, are more supportive of legalization than Republicans. It has tipped over 50% in some polls for people overall, and in more for Democrats alone.
Party platform positions and policy statements have virtually no legislative relevance since candidates owe very little to the political party itself - they owe far more to major donors. But, they are something of a leading indicator. Often, a major policy reversal on a social issue will come sometimes after it has become a perennial in party platform statements - party platforms are one step, although hardly the final one, on the path to legitimatizing a point of view with the general public.
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