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The Growing Republican Gap on Marijuana

The following article first appeared in Cannabis Now: 

A growing rift in the Republican party is finding key social issues at its heart. Many young Republicans are breaking away from the parties traditional stance on things like marijuana and gay marriage and are potentially forming a new face of the party.

Sporting an orange and aqua mohawk, earrings and a pinstripe suit at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Ian Jacobson, known as Rooster, conveyed his views on his party’s opposition marijuana legalization and of and same-sex marriage to the New York Times: “It’s ridiculous, it’s time-consuming and it’s taking focus away from where it should be — on economic issues.”

Many young Republicans are in line with Jacobson’s beliefs, stating issues like marijuana and gay marriage should not be of concern to political parties or the government at large.

Tampa Bay Young Republicans President Anibal Cabrera told the Denver Post: “We’ve grown up in a time where everything’s much more open. We want to talk about more things, we’re willing to listen to the other point of view. We’re willing to have an opposite opinion.”

The live-and-let-live approach to social issues for young Republicans compared to their conservative elders was confirmed in a recent New York Times Poll, the results found 56 percent of Republicans under age 45 indicated support for same-sex marriage rights, compared with just 29 percent among older Republicans.

This growing rift inside the party may be a key strategy for candidates in the upcoming 2016 elections.

“Whether the split on social issues forces the GOP to change its platform or risk alienating younger voters probably won’t be answered until after the 2016 presidential election,” said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor, said to the Denver Post. “If the nominee of the Republican Party signals less of an emphasis on social issues than in years past, that leaves an opening for these young Republicans who may have more libertarian leanings, but there’s a lot of seniors within the party that I don’t think are ready to give up on those positions.”

For Alexander McCobin, 27, the head of a libertarian student group, how this may affect the party is clear, “They [older Republicans] need to start embracing libertarian issues or it’s going to start really hurting them in elections.”

Alex Holzbach, a Tallahassee-based Republican political consultant who served as president of the Florida State University College Republicans before graduating this year, told the Huffington Post: “When it comes to issues like gay marriage or marijuana legalization, younger Republicans often find themselves asking, ‘Why is government involved in this at all?”

While it’s no surprise marijuana issues have helped Democratic leanings in the past, this new generations of Republicans could potentially help widen marijuana legalization on the whole, as well as narrow the deep gap between the two parties. After so much strife, a little unity seems like a much needed thing.

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