Opinion

So pot is popular – no biggie

Sunshine Johnston stops to smell one of numerous cannabis crops grown on Sunbodt Farms in Humboldt County, Calif.
Sunshine Johnston stops to smell one of numerous cannabis crops grown on Sunbodt Farms in Humboldt County, Calif. TNS

When I hear people stressing out about the millions of Americans who use marijuana on a regular basis, a little voice pops into my head. It belongs to the comedian Chris Tucker.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with smoking weed,” his character, Smokey, said rolling a joint in the movie “Friday.” “Weed is from the Earth. God put this here for me and you. Take advantage, man, take advantage!”

In California, many of us do just that. (Not me, though. I swear!)

As new data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show, one in seven of the state’s residents ages 12 and older say they’ve smoked marijuana in the past month. That’s 14.2 percent of Californians, compared to about 7.7 percent of all Americans.

In San Francisco, the rate is 15.5 percent – the highest in the country. The northern counties of the “state of Jefferson” don’t rank far behind.

One would think that residents of these counties would jump at the chance to vote for a presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders. After all, the senator-turned-political-messiah, turned-stubborn-old-man, turned-reluctant-ally was the first presidential candidate of a major party to support the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

He initially did so during a debate with Hillary Clinton last October. Asked if he would back a Nevada ballot initiative to regulate the drug like alcohol, he said he would. And months later, fighting a losing battle for his political life, he also endorsed the measure sponsored by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom that’s on California’s ballot this November.

Bernie is a pothead’s dream come true. So voters who smoke should feel the Bern and puff, puff, give, right?

Well, as it turns out, not so much. Looking at data from both the June 7 primary and the survey on marijuana use, it’s abundantly clear that how much residents smoke has little to do with their regions’ political leanings. In short, marijuana legalization is an important issue – it’s just not that important. So take note, Sean Parker and Lt. Gov. Newsom.

Just look at the counties in the state of Jefferson, where, according to the survey, about 14 percent of residents use pot frequently.

Sanders, as expected, won big in the Emerald Triangle, grabbing the cannabis havens of Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties by wide margins. But most other counties in Northern California went to Donald Trump – the Republican nominee who has a mere C+ rating from the Marijuana Policy Project because of his wishy-washy stances on legalizing marijuana.

Or take San Francisco, the highest city in the country. Hillary Clinton, not Sanders, won it handily. She has only a B+ rating for her support of legalizing medical marijuana and reclassifying it as a Schedule II drug to make it easier to study its medical benefits.

So weed, it seems, does cut across the political spectrum. On using it, Republicans, Democrats, and tight-knit tribes of conservatives, progressives and libertarians can agree – even if they agree on nothing else. Perhaps this is the drug’s most underrated medical benefit of all: curing political acrimony.

By the numbers

Vote totals for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the June 7 presidential primary in the California counties where people use marijuana most often:

County

Trump

Clinton

Sanders

San Francisco

9,224

116,359

99,594

Butte

20,079

11,766

19,739

Del Norte

1,895

1,119

1,598

Glenn

2,521

911

1,003

Humboldt

6,762

8,135

19,928

Lassen

3,231

812

1,023

Mendocino

4,000

6,048

12,259

Modoc

1,244

281

349

Nevada

12,050

8,175

13,827

Plumas

2,710

2,710

1,475

Shasta

21,464

7,809

9,026

Sierra

531

224

297

Siskiyou

5,407

2,466

3,894

Tehama

6,651

2,372

2,655

Trinity

1,201

672

1,211

Yuba

5,289

2,388

2,771

Source: California Secretary of State

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