Meet Colorado’s New Single-Issue Voters: The Cannabis Community Image

LAFAYETTE, Colo. — The political rise of Colorado’s cannabis industry is, in essence, the story of Garrett Hause’s alfalfa farm.

Mr. Hause, a broad-shouldered, 25-year-old horticulturist who tills his family’s land in the shadow of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, said he was never particularly interested in politics — that is, until voters legalized cannabis in 2012. He started familiarizing himself with the stringent state regulations that govern the industry. He and a friend then created Elation Cannabis Company, which uses a section of the family’s soil to grow hemp.

One afternoon last week, ahead of Tuesday’s primary in the Colorado governor’s race, Mr. Hause hosted one of the leading Democratic candidates, Representative Jared Polis, and reflected on his journey from political ambivalence to activism. As his grandmother passed out her signature peanut butter sugar cookies and Mr. Polis toured the facilities, Mr. Hause said that marijuana had become a political “entry point” for him and his friends, much like issues such as net neutrality and gay rights had been to other young people.

“I’ve never been really political, but now that it’s affecting me personally I’ve had to pay more attention,” Mr. Hause said.

For farmers like Mr. Hause and leaders of the ever-bigger cannabis industry nationwide, the next step in the legalization movement is achieving sustained electoral power, and many see their biggest opportunity as the governor’s race and several down-ballot races in a state where marijuana policy has taken center stage.

In the 2018 midterm elections, industry leaders are hoping that the spread of marijuana legalization will lead to the birth of a new single-issue voter: People who, like some Medicare recipients or gun owners, are motivated to cast ballots based on the benefits they have received or fears about any government rollback of access.

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