Another Signal to Washington - Opposing Safe Access is a Losing Strategy

Voters in El Paso, TX sent a strong message to Washington yesterday by electing safe access supporter Beto O'Rourke as the Democratic nominee to the state's 16th District Congressional seat by a substantial 6-point margin - ousting an eight-term, anti-cannabis incumbent. This result should put both Congress and the White House on notice: supporting safe access = win; belittling cannabis support = defeat.

O'Rourke's opponent, Silvestre Reyes, provided a clear contrast on safe access. Backed by both President Obama and former President Clinton, Reyes denounced the very idea of reform as something beneath the intellect of a child. Not only did Reyes grossly misjudge his constituency, he apparently insulted them (or more accurately, O'Rourke's message inspired them) such that voter turnout was nearly 50% higher than in 2010.

Opposing Safe Access is Bad Politics

While safe access may once have been a so-called "3rd rail" issue, that is no longer the case in many parts of the country, a trend is only going to continue to grow. Last week, Oregonians chose safe access supporter Ellen Rosenblum over former US Attorney and warrior against safe access, Dwight Holton. In 2010, ASA made news by leading the charge in the successful defeat of medical cannabis hater Steve Cooley with our "Not Cooley" campaign. In fact, President Obama himself ran as a supporter of safe access during the 2008 race, and was elected to the highest office in the land! Still a 3rd rail issue? Only if you have a time machine or a have no backbone.

Supporting Safe Access is Wise Even in Key Battleground States

Why is campaigning against safe access bad campaign strategy, particular for Obama in 2012? Take Ohio for example, quite possibly the most important battleground state in any recent presidential election. In 2009 (the most recent state poll available), medical cannabis polled very favorably, with 72% of registered voters supporting safe access. While seniors were least likely to favor safe access, nearly two-thirds (64%) were in favor of medical cannabis access.

With poll numbers like that, and a growing track record of elections decided on the issue of medical marijuana, a politician would be foolish not to embrace a safe access platform.

Mike Liszewski is ASA's Policy Director. If you are a resident of the El Paso area, be sure to follow Beto O'Rourke on Facebook and Twitter.