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Will Marijuana Legislation Impact Obama's Re-Election?

Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 | 11:59 AM ET

Pot and politics. You might not think they go together, but they mix like peanut butter and chocolate — especially if you have the munchies.

Yes to 64
Justin Solomon for CNBC.com
Yes to 64

But in all seriousness, November isn't just a Presidential Election — three states are voting to fully legalize marijuana. That's right. Not medical marijuana or decriminalizing it. Full legalization could be a reality in Colorado, Oregon and Washington State.

Some experts say that Colorado stands the best chance of passage. Already, it has a well regulated medical marijuana program, and the vote on what is called "Amendment 64" could go either way.

Politics of Pot in Colorado
For Colorado, legalizing marijuana will be one of the most important political issues when the November election rolls around, reports CNBC's Brian Shactman.

"A million Coloradans are going to tell the federal government clearly — without any confusion — what we are voting for: That anyone over the age of 21 has access to decide what they want with marijuana," said Wanda James who owns "Simply Pure", a business that made, packaged and sold edible marijuana products. She recently suspended operations because Wells Fargo would no longer bank with her.

Even still, she is undeterred and said, she'll bring it back if the pro-pot vote wins. "The minute that I know Amendment 64 passes — and I'm fighting for that — we will bring 'Simply Pure' back as its own legal retail place for anyone over the age of 21."

John Suthers, Colorado's State Attorney General, is one of the more outspoken opponents not only of the amendment but also of medical marijuana.

"What we have in Colorado is a sham," he told CNBC. "Very few people have medical conditions.
"It's not going to be helped legalizing on a state level. It needs to be addressed on federal level."

The issues could set up a State vs. Federal debate similar to President Obama's health care bill, which made it all the way to the Supreme Court. (Related Link: Obamacare's Insurance Rule Is Uphelp by Supreme Court.)

Conflicts with the federal government.

"It [a state legalizing marijuana] sets up this conflict with the federal government where all of a sudden its harder for the federal government to basically ignore — which they are doing with medical marijuana — saying we are just not enforcing the law," said U.S. Representative Jared Polis, Democrat from Colorado — which includes the district of Boulder.

Marijuana in jars
Justin Solomon for CNBC.com
Marijuana in jars

"If it suddenly becomes fully legal and regulated, it really sets up this conflict, and it's hard to say how that will be resolved," added Polis. (Related Link: A Gallery of Medical Marijuana.)

Attorney General Suthers thinks it should not even be a state issue.

"It's not going to be helped legalizing it on a state level while its still illegal on a federal level," he said. "This needs to be addressed on federal level."

Speaking of the federal level, another pot politics issue is making waves in Colorado: President Obama's re-election bid.

In 2008, Obama won Colorado. In 2012, his numbers are slipping a bit, and some in the medical marijuana industry think Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is the issue. Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, is an outspoken supporter of marijuana's legalization and regulation.

Some voters are frustrated with Obama's drug policy which has been more passive than expected, and they might be leaning toward Johnson.

"This is going to be an issue where the President could lose the White House," said Wanda James, who isn't switching her vote, but isn't happy with the man she raised money for in 2008.

After saying that, she paused and then took it a step further. "Obama will lose Colorado if he does not find a way to fix this issue."

Pot and politics. Like peanut butter and chocolate. Like November and elections. They do go together.

By CNBC's Brian Shactman
@bschactman


Tune In: CNBC will be featuring reports on the state of marijuana regulation throughout the day Aug. 23.