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How Democrats can turn support for marijuana legalization into a political win

Brandon Smith / IPB News

Indiana Democrats hope the state party’s support of marijuana legalization can become a political victory for them. But political scientists say achieving that will likely take considerable time and effort.

Democrats say marijuana legalization could produce a new type of “single issue” voter – people who make their choices at the ballot box based around a candidate’s views on one issue.

Laura Merrifield Wilson, University of Indianapolis associate professor of political science, said for that to happen, Democrats need to develop a cohesive message.

"Why would this be valuable for our state? Why would this change the criminal justice system? Why could this potentially have economic benefits?" Wilson said. "There are a lot of different interest groups that have very strong arguments and you’ve seen them effective in other states where they have legalized."

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Wilson said the other key is mobilization – rallying people to action on what appears to be a very popular position that crosses party lines.

“If everyone agrees on it but they don’t do anything about it, nothing ultimately is done,” Wilson said.

Still, with Republican Statehouse leaders opposed, the issue does not appear likely to gain traction in the near future.

Contact reporter Brandon at or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.