Pot Initiative Could Be Boon to Obama in Colorado

Pot Initiative Could Be Boon to Obama in Colorado

By Scott Conroy - June 28, 2012

DENVER -- In a sparsely developed industrial lot on the outskirts of town stands a nondescript single-story edifice.

A small sign in front of the building announces it, unremarkably, as the "Denver Dispensary," but the strong herbal odor emanating from the premises gives away the facility's function in this city’s flourishing medical marijuana distribution system.

There are at least 400 such dispensaries in the Denver area alone, helping to make Colorado’s capital region one of the most pot-friendly areas of the country in a state that has allowed medicinal use of the drug since Amendment 20 passed in 2000.

Marijuana will again appear on the Colorado ballot this November, as voters here will decide whether the state should allow possession of up to an ounce of pot for recreational use among residents 21 and over.

Sandra Jarzeboski, a manager at the Denver Dispensary, said the majority of the approximately 100 patients she sees each day have indicated that they intend to vote for the pro-legalization initiative on Nov. 6 -- and will also pull the lever for President Obama while they’re at it.

“It’s definitely 75 percent for Obama, for sure,” Jarzeboski, a Ron Paul supporter herself, said of her customers. “I think it’ll definitely help him here.”

Neither Obama nor Mitt Romney supports marijuana legalization efforts like Colorado’s Amendment 64, and neither candidate appears to have a political interest in addressing the issue directly.

"Aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about?” Romney asked a Denver TV reporter who queried him about the topic in a recent interview.

But in a tight race to win this state’s nine electoral votes, most Colorado political watchers believe that the pot issue could well become a significant factor on the presidential level, regardless of whether the initiative passes.

Obama won the state by 9 percentage points in 2008 with an assist from enthusiastic younger voters, who reveled in the excitement punctuated by that summer’s Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Four years later he holds just a three-point lead in the RCP Average, and evidence suggests that at least some of Obama’s glow has worn off among the young professional and student set here, though enthusiasm for pot apparently has not diminished in the 20-something haven of Denver and in two of the state’s major university towns.

In the Princeton Review’s latest rankings, Colorado College (in Colorado Springs) earned the title of the most marijuana-friendly campus in the nation, and the University of Colorado-Boulder was not far behind, coming in fourth place nationwide.

When President Obama visited the latter campus on April 24, Boulder police were just four days removed from their efforts to crack down on the annual marijuana-themed 4/20 event, which in previous years has drawn a pro-marijuana crowd of about 10,000 people. (The number 420 has long been associated with marijuana use, though the origins of that connection are difficult to ascertain.)

Colorado Democratic pollster Andrew Myers predicted that this year’s ballot initiative would result in a larger than typical youth vote in the presidential race.

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Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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