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Public Opinion: California Support for Pot Legalization At 56% in New Poll

A SurveyUSA poll conducted this week for a consortium of California television stations showed majority support for marijuana legalization. An initiative that would do just that, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, will be on the ballot in November.

The poll found that 56% of those surveyed responded affirmatively to the question, "Should the state of California legalize marijuana?" That's the same number as supported legalization in a Field poll a year ago this month. In this week's poll, only 42% answered negatively, with 3% undecided.

People under 35 supported legalization by a margin of three-to-one (74%-25%), with support declining to 46% among the 35-to-49 age group, rising to 49% among the 50-64 group, then declining again to 39% among those 65 and older. Among all voters under age 50, support was at 61%, while among those over 50, it dropped to 46%

The poll revealed a significant gender gap, with 65% of men supporting legalization, while a dramatically lower 46% of women supported it. That means legalization supporters will have to work to win over a key demographic.

There was majority support for legalization among all ethnic groups except Hispanics, of whom only 45% wanted to free the weed. Support was highest among blacks (67%), followed by whites (59%), and Asians (58%).

Somewhat surprisingly, there was majority support for legalization in all regions of the state, although only barely, except for the San Francisco Bay area, where support was at 65%. In Central California and the Inland Empire, support was at 54%, and in the Greater Los Angeles area, support was at 52%.

The poll was conducted Tuesday and involved interviews with 500 adults across the state. It has a margin of sampling error of plus/minus 4.4%.

Public Opinion: Battle of the Marijuana Polls

Only 33% of respondents in a new Associated Press/CNBC poll support legalizing marijuana, with a solid majority (55%) opposing it. Decriminalization fared similarly poorly, garnering only 34%, while support for medical marijuana was at 60%.

But the AP/CNBC is a low-end outlier compared to other recent national polls on marijuana legalization and/or decriminalization, finding levels of support about 10 points less than other polls conducted in the past year or so. More in line with other recent polls was a CBS News poll released Tuesday that had legalization support at 44%.

One reason for the low levels of support in the AP/CBC poll may lie in the apparent over-representation of the country's most conservative regions. Thirty-seven percent of respondents were from the South and 22% from the Midwest, while only 18% were from the Northeast and 23% from the West.

Unfortunately, the AP/CNBC poll does not provide a breakdown of support for legalization or decriminalization by region. That information could have provided especially useful insight on support for legalization on the West Coast, where a legalization initiative will be on the ballot in California and legalization initiative signature-gathering campaigns are underway in Oregon and Washington.

But the CBS poll does provide a regional breakdown, and the results have to be encouraging for reformers on the West Coast. That poll found majority support (55%) for legalization in the West, the only region where legalization has a majority. Support was at 44% in the Northeast, 40% in the South, and 36% in the Midwest.

The AP/CNBC poll also suggests that American attitudes toward marijuana legalization are a bit incoherent. While only 33% supported legalization and 34% supported decriminalization, 56% thought marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol (44%) or less strictly than alcohol (12%). Alcohol, of course, is a legal, regulated substance.

Among the 55% of people who said they oppose marijuana legalization in the AP/CNBC poll, 14% said they would support it if state governments could tax the proceeds and use the revenues to fund programs. That would bring support for legalization up to the 40-41% range, more in line with other recent polls, but it will not hearten legalization campaigners hoping that economic arguments will significantly increase support for reforms.

A plurality of respondents to the AP/CNBC poll (46%) did not believe that legalization would have any impact on the economy, although 32% thought it would a positive impact. One in five (21%) thought legalization would have a negative impact on the economy. Still, a solid majority (62%) were up for taxing marijuana if it were legal.

Respondents were evenly divided on the impact that legalization would have on crime. One-third thought crime would increase, one-third thought crime would decrease, and one-third thought there would be no change in crime rates. Respondents were also divided on whether the cost of enforcing marijuana prohibition was worth it. Forty-eight per cent said yes and 45% said no.

Some of the opposition to legalization in the AP/CNBC poll stems from health concerns and fears that marijuana use will lead to hard drug use. A plurality of people (46%) thought legalization would harm the overall health of the country, while 39% thought it would have no effect and 13% thought it would improve health. And while 49% of respondents thought that legalizing marijuana would have no affect on hard drug use levels, a sizeable minority (39%) still adheres to the discredited "gateway theory" that smoking pot pushes people to try harder, more dangerous drugs.

The AP/CNBC poll was conducted April 7-12, 2010 via phone interviews with 1,001 respondents and has a margin-of-error factor of plus/minus 4.3%. The CBS News poll was conducted March 29-April 1 via phone interviews with 858 respondents. It has a margin of error factor of plus/minus 3%. Both polls were conducted using both landline and cell phone numbers.

Feature: 4/20 Events Bring Out Tens of Thousands Nationwide

Tuesday was 4/20, National Weed Day -- or whatever you want to call it -- and America's Cannabis Nation celebrated it with clouds of marijuana smoke on college campuses and city parks across the land. This year, 4/20 felt a little different, with attendees buoyed by a sense of impending change and the suit and tie wearing movement worriers a little less concerned about how mass pot parties will play with the public. It wasn't just clouds of pot smoke in the air, but the scent of looming change, too, was palpable.

CU Boulder time-lapse video

More than 10,000 people rallied in Denver and another 10,000 or so did so 35 miles away at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Hundreds more at the University of California at Santa Cruz celebrated with a mass light-up at 4:20pm. San Francisco's Golden Gate Park hosted thousands more happy puffers, while in Washington, DC, the party was inside. Well-attended 4/20 events also took place in Seattle and Boston, while smaller celebrations of the stoner holiday took place all across the country, including dozens of college campuses.

In New Hampshire, about 100 people rallied in the state capital of Concord, while in Juneau, Alaska, about 20 people, two dogs, and a mother pushing a stroller braved driving rain as they marched past the state capitol and city hall, chanting "Yes, we cannabis!" Oakland got a head start on 4/20 when the recently opened iGrow marijuana cultivation supply shop held a 4/20 Eve party, complete with a Hummer serving as a smoking room.

Local NORML chapters in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Tucson held events, and the Seattle Hempfest held a 420 Members' Social, while New York City was the scene of a 4/20 rally. The date was commemorated with cannabis competitions in Oakland and Olympia, Washington, and marked by celebrations in San Diego and Los Angeles, as well.

And, as compiled by Celeb Stoner, and suggestive of the growing cultural impact of 4/20, the day was marked by concerts, record releases, and movie screenings linked to cannabis culture. Famous tokers Cypress Hill played San Francisco, while Snoop Dogg played New York, Willie Nelson performed in Topeka, Sublime played in Los Angeles, and Slightly Stoopid played in Austin. Cypress Hill, fellow tokers the Kottonmouth Kings, Devin the Dude, and Nelson all released albums on 4/20.

Pot-friendly comics also got into the act. Doug Benson did a 4/20 show in Minneapolis, Sarah Silverman did one in New York City, and Ngaio Bealum played San Francisco.

Theaters in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC, marked 4/20 with screenings of the "Phish 3D" movie, while in Calgary, Alberta, the 4/20 Film fest featured thematically appropriate films like "Johnny Appleweed," "Blaze," and "400 Bowls."

This year's 4/20 events come as the sense of momentum toward legalization grows palpable, with a legalization initiative headed for the November ballot in California and polling above 50%. (See related stories this issue here and here.) Meanwhile, legalization initiative signature gathering campaigns are underway in Oregon and Washington, so there is a chance the whole West Coast could vote to free the weed this fall.

4/20 also came on the heels of two events, one in San Francisco and one in Colorado Springs, that strongly suggest marijuana is going mainstream. In San Francisco, the International Cannabis and Hemp Expo drew about 15,000 of visitors over the weekend. Vendors there offered up everything from coffee cops emblazoned with marijuana leaves to a 52-foot mobile grow trailer, and a doctor was on hand offering medical marijuana recommendations for $100.

In Colorado Springs, meanwhile, Colorado's first Medical Cannabis Expo was also attended by thousands of people. The Expo comes at Colorado's medical marijuana scene it taking off in ways reminiscent of California's "Wild West" days of just a few years ago and as Colorado legislators work desperately to rein it in. The Expo saw dozens of vendors, including lawyers, dispensary owners, and realtors, and made evident that marijuana is a big and growing business in the state.

While in the past, some prominent drug reform movement leaders have criticized 4/20 and similar events as counterproductive and promoting stoner stereotypes, those critiques were less prominent this year. In fact, at least two reform leaders, Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance and former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition published pieces urging 4/20 celebrators to put down the joint -- at least for a moment -- and pick up the pen. 4/20 is not just a party, they suggested, but a time to stoke activism as well.

"While I certainly wish we could get 10,000 to come out to rally in support of an initiative or a legislative agenda, the reality is that more people are prone to show up when it entails smoking in public," said Mason Tvert of Colorado-based SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation). "It's part of this movement, and it needs to be embraced. These are organic, grassroots events that are growing in popularity and are being normalized," he said.

"I don't tell everyone to light up and get high," Tvert continued. "I say I hope you will show this same level of excitement and enthusiasm when there is something on the ballot. Trying to tell 10,000 people who are using marijuana that they're doing something wrong is not terribly helpful, so I told them to think about how nice it was to light up with that overt fear of punishment and how great it would be if they use marijuana without fear everyday and they should be supporting organizations that will help them achieve that," he said. "With events like this, all we can do is try to ride the beast."

"I went down to the gathering in Golden Gate Park," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "You had thousands of people primarily in their 20s hanging out and smoking marijuana. It was peaceful, friendly, and remarkable diverse, and I think that in itself is significant. There were no speeches, no organized entertainment, just people hanging out, but also making something of a political statement."

The Drug Policy Alliance has decided that the stoner celebrations aren't necessarily are a bad thing, said Nadelmann. "We've reached a bit of consensus that to the extent the gatherings are large in number and fairly well-run, they are a net plus," he said. "But if they're small and scraggly, they're probably not a plus and could be a negative."

Like Tvert, Nadelmann acknowledged the grass-roots nature of 4/20. "The drug reform movement didn't create 4/20, and people are going to gather and do this regardless of what the drug reform movement says. The operative question for us is how to make the most of these events, and we are focusing on trying to turn them into more political events. It would have been nice to have even a few minutes with the crowd Tuesday to get it one step more political."

Even the Marijuana Policy Project, which specializes in working the corridors of power, had little bad to say about 4/20. "Our approach to improving marijuana laws is to take it from a serious lobbying position," said Mike Meno, the group's communications director. "But at the same time, we rely on grassroots support from people who are passionate about the issue, and many of them like 4/20. While we would prefer a more buttoned-down approach, we don't discourage anyone from getting involved in other ways. We just ask that they do so with a focus on what is going to help and improve our chances," he said.

Still, Meno said, those sorts of events can cut for or against reform. "It's sort of a double-edged sword," he reasoned. "It's great if there's a big turnout and people see how diverse it is and how much support there is for changing the law, but on the other hand, if only a half-dozen people show up, maybe it's not the best thing image-wise."

4/20 may have come and gone this year, but the sense of imminent victory apparent at the events will linger into the election season. Next year, 4/20 may be about celebrating the first major step toward national pot legalization -- winning a victory in California, and maybe Oregon and Washington, too.

Public Opinion: California Support for Pot Legalization At 56% in New Poll

A SurveyUSA poll conducted this week for a consortium of California television stations showed majority support for marijuana legalization. An initiative that would do just that, Control and Tax Cannabis California 2019, will be on the ballot in November. The poll found that 56% of those surveyed responded affirmatively to the question, "Should the state of California legalize marijuana?" That's the same number as supported legalization in a Field poll a year ago this month. In this week's poll, only 42% answered negatively, with 3% undecided. People under 35 supported legalization by a margin of three-to-one (74%-25%), with support declining to 46% among the 35-to-49 age group, rising to 49% among the 50-64 group, then declining again to 39% among those 65 and older. Among all voters under age 50, support was at 61%, while among those over 50, it dropped to 46% The poll revealed a significant gender gap, with 65% of men supporting legalization, while a dramatically lower 46% of women supported it. That means legalization supporters will have to work to win over a key demographic. There was majority support for legalization among all ethnic groups except Hispanics, of whom only 45% wanted to free the weed. Support was highest among blacks (67%), followed by whites (59%), and Asians (58%). Somewhat surprisingly, there was majority support for legalization in all regions of the state, although only barely, except for the San Francisco Bay area, where support was at 65%. In Central California and the Inland Empire, support was at 54%, and in the Greater Los Angeles area, support was at 52%. The poll was conducted Tuesday and involved interviews with 500 adults across the state. It has a margin of sampling error of plus/minus 4.4%.
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Mexico Violence Fueling Calls for Legalization

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With nearly two million annual visitors to our web site, StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for news, information and activism promoting sensible drug reform and an end to prohibition worldwide.

The more we do at StoptheDrugWar.org, the faster the reform movement will grow and the sooner minds, laws and lives will change.

If you follow our weekly Mexico Drug War Update -- a resource cited widely by sites across the Internet -- then you're aware not only how the Mexico President Calderon's escalation of the drug war has plunged his country into appalling drug war violence, but also of the increasing chorus of voices calling for alternatives. Yes, even for legalization:
  • In December, the conservative Wall Street Journal discussed the case for legalization in an article titled "Saving Mexico."
  • In February, Colombia's former President Cesar Gaviria Diaz, a former drug war supporter, told a conference in Mexico City that "With the passing of time, prohibitionism, in which I believed, has demonstrated itself a failure."
  • Also in February, Mexico's former president, Vicente Fox, in a speech in Santa Barbara said that legalizing drugs in Mexico could have the same effect that ending alcohol prohibition had here in the United Stated in 1993, removing the incentives for criminals.

With the public's attention here as well as in Mexico focused on the violence just across our border, now is the time to influence public opinion about prohibition and the need for legalization. With your support StoptheDrugWar.org will continue to publish important weekly features like the Mexico Drug War Update that effectively make the case, simply by reporting the facts consistently and making clear what the role of prohibition is. We believe that time will show our strategy of educating the media, policymakers and opinion leaders through online publishing is working and helping to change minds, laws and lives sooner rather than later.

Join our 2010 "Changing Minds, Laws & Lives" campaign today!

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"10 Rules for Dealing with Police," a 40-minute educational drama, is the most sophisticated and entertaining film of its kind. Click the image for more information.
"Busted: The Citizens Guide for Surviving Police Encounters," is the classic know your rights training film, watched by more than two million people.
"Prohibition Doesn't Work" is our StoptheDrugWar.org t-shirt that visually makes the point about the analogy between alcohol prohibition last century and drug prohibition now. The top of the shirt shows a famous alcohol "speakeasy" scene (a well-known Jesuit leader flaunting the prohibition laws), while the bottom depicts a shady drug deal.
"Consequences of Prohibition" is our StoptheDrugWar.org t-shirt that lists a host of social ills fueled by the drug prohibition laws -- prison, drug trade violence, overuse of SWAT raids, many more. Our stop sign motif with this list of problems embedded in it makes for a striking graphic.

Marijuana Legalization on the Cusp

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With nearly two million annual visitors to our web site, StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for news, information and activism promoting sensible drug reform and an end to prohibition worldwide.

The more we do at StoptheDrugWar.org, the faster the reform movement will grow and the sooner minds, laws and lives will change.

As Phil Smith noted in our end-2009 review of the year's top ten drug policy stories, 2009 saw the first poll results showing majority nationwide support for legalization of marijuana -- Zogby in May and Angus Reid in December. While these results are outliers, the evidence that majority support is just around the corner is indisputable:

Ending drug prohibition as a whole, not just marijuana, is a harder and longer fight, and a more complicated case to make. But the shifting public mood on marijuana is making many things possible. With your support StoptheDrugWar.org will help to push marijuana legalization over the top, while waking up leaders and the public to the case for ending prohibition outright. We believe that time will show our strategy of building the movement while educating the public is working and helping to change minds, laws and lives sooner rather than later.

Join our 2010 "Changing Minds, Laws & Lives" campaign today!

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' . ''; ?>

Donate today and you can get one, two, three or even more FREE gifts.

Updates:


"10 Rules for Dealing with Police," a 40-minute educational drama, is the most sophisticated and entertaining film of its kind. Click the image for more information.
"Busted: The Citizens Guide for Surviving Police Encounters," is the classic know your rights training film, watched by more than two million people.
"Prohibition Doesn't Work" is our StoptheDrugWar.org t-shirt that visually makes the point about the analogy between alcohol prohibition last century and drug prohibition now. The top of the shirt shows a famous alcohol "speakeasy" scene (a well-known Jesuit leader flaunting the prohibition laws), while the bottom depicts a shady drug deal.
"Consequences of Prohibition" is our StoptheDrugWar.org t-shirt that lists a host of social ills fueled by the drug prohibition laws -- prison, drug trade violence, overuse of SWAT raids, many more. Our stop sign motif with this list of problems embedded in it makes for a striking graphic.

Marijuana Decriminalization: New Hampshire Bill Defeated in Senate Committee

A bill that would decriminalize the possession of a quarter-ounce or less of marijuana in New Hampshire appears dead this year after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 Tuesday not to recommend it. The bill will still go before the full Senate, where it is expected to be defeated on a voice vote.

"It is now clear the bill will not become law this year, but it is also clear the discussion will continue," Matt Simon, director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, told the North Andover (Massachusetts) Eagle Tribune after the vote.

The bill, HB 1653, passed the House on a 214-37 vote earlier this year. But Senate Judiciary Committee members said the threat of a gubernatorial veto made it dead on arrival because the Senate has other legislation to which to attend.

Simon said the Senate vote was a minor setback and that medical marijuana and decriminalization bills will be back. The legislature already defeated a marijuana legalization bill this year, but will study the tax benefits of legalizing pot this summer.

Drug Truth 04/12/10

Cultural Baggage * Century of Lies * 4:20 Drug War NEWS Cultural Baggage for 04/11/10 29:00 Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, Dir of Clergy Against Prohibition + DEA bust of 16 year old, Chris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2860 TRANSCRIPT: TBD Century of Lies for 04/11/10 29:00 Jeff Blackburn, Dir of Innocence Project of Texas + Loretta Nall of Alabamians for Compassionate Care LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2861 TRANSCRIPT: TBD 4:20 Drug War NEWS, 04/12 to 04/18/10 Link at www.drugtruth.net on the right margin - Sun - NPR extract: Problems on Tex/Mex border Sat - Dr. Tom Trail a state rep introduces Med Marijuana law in Idaho Fri - Jeff Blackburn, Dir of Innocence Project of Texas Thu - Loretta Nall of Alabamians for Compassionate Care Wed - Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, Dir of Clergy Against Prohibition Tue - Steven Betzen of Texan Compassion for Med MJ Mon - Mike Meno of the Marijuana Policy Project re changing MJ laws to make money Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston, 90.1 FM. You can Listen Live Online at www.kpft.org - Cultural Baggage Sun, 7:30 PM ET, 6:30 PM CT, 5:30 PM MT, 4:30 PM PT - Century of Lies, SUN, 8 PM ET, 7 PM CT, 6 PM MT & 5 PM PT Who's Next to "Face The Inquisition?": Reports from Psychedleic Science in 21st Century Conference in San Jose Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org We have potcasts, searchability, CMS, XML, sorts by guest name and by organization. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates. You can tune into both our 1/2 hour programs, live, at 6:30 central time on Pacifica's KPFT at http://www.kpft.org and call in your questions and concerns toll free at 1-877-9-420 420. The two, 29:00 shows appear along with the seven, daily, 3:00 "4:20 Drug War NEWS" reports each Monday morning at http://www.drugtruth.net . We currently have 72 affiliated, yet independent broadcast stations. With a simple email request to dean@drugtruth.net , your station can join the Drug Truth Network, free of charge. Check out our latest videos via www.youtube.com/fdbecker Please become part of the solution, visit our website: www.endprohibition.org for links to the best of reform. "Prohibition is evil." - Reverend Dean Becker, DTN Producer, 713-462-7981, www.drugtruth.net

Feature: Philadelphia to Not Quite Decriminalize Marijuana

People caught with 30 grams (a bit more than an ounce) or less of marijuana in Philadelphia will no longer be charged with criminal misdemeanors, but with summary offenses under a new policy that will go into effect later this month. Fines are expected to be in the $200 to $300 range.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/independencehall.jpg
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
But while pot smokers won't face criminal charges, they will still be arrested, handcuffed, searched, detained, and fingerprinted. Then, their cases will be heard by a special "quality of life" court that is already in use for things like dealing with unruly Eagles fans and public drinking.

"We're not going to stop locking people up," Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, told the Philadelphia Inquirer Monday. Marijuana possession remained illegal, he said. "We're going to stop people for it... Our officers are trained to do that. Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that's up to the DA. We can't control that. Until they legalize it, we're not going to stop."

After the Inquirer ran its story Monday, emphasizing that the policy change would "all but decriminalize" marijuana possession, District Attorney Seth Williams had to issue a statement of clarification:

"We are not decriminalizing marijuana -- any effort like that would be one for the legislature to undertake. The penalty available for these minimal amount offenses remains exactly the same. What we are doing is properly dealing with cases involving minimal amounts of marijuana in the most efficient and cost effective process possible. Those arrested for these offenses will still be restrained, identified and processed by police in police custody. They will still have to answer to the charges, but they will be doing so in a speedier and more efficient process. We want to use valuable court resources in the best way possible and we believe that means giving minor drug offenders the option of getting into diversionary programs, get drug education or enter drug treatment centers. Again we are NOT decriminalizing marijuana, and the penalty for these offenses remains the same."

"It will be charged as a summary offense, but you will still get arrested, booked, and fingerprinted," confirmed Tasha Jamerson, media director for the district attorney's office. "But instead of getting processed as a misdemeanor, it is processed as a summary offense, and you face only one court appearance."

"They are making a policy out of what is the common practice," said Chris Goldstein of Philadelphia NORML, which has been lobbying local officials for reforms. "People arrested for a Class A marijuana possession misdemeanor for less than 30 grams typically pleaded down to disorderly conduct, but it took a court hearing to make that happen. Prosecutors are making a pragmatic choice here; this will save them a lot of time and money."

The policy shift is the result of a collaboration between new District Attorney Seth Williams and a pair of Pennsylvania Supreme Court judges. It is part of an effort to unclog the city's overwhelmed court dockets.

Under Williams' predecessor, former DA Lynne Abraham, police arrested an average of 3,000 people a year for small-time pot possession, about 75% of them black. Last year, the arrest figure jumped to more than 4,700. That figure represents roughly 5% of the city's criminal caseload.

About another 2,000 are arrested for marijuana distribution and 2,500 more are arrested for possession of more than 30 grams. Overall, enforcing drug prohibition has resulted in about 18,000 arrests a year in Philadelphia, or nearly one-third of the entire criminal caseload.

"We have to be smart on crime," Williams told the Inquirer. "We can't declare a war on drugs by going after the kid who's smoking a joint on 55th Street. We have to go after the large traffickers."

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille, one of the two justices who worked with Williams on the policy shift, said summary prosecution was "appropriate" for such a small-time offense. "It's a minor crime when you're faced with major drug crimes." Removing such cases from the criminal courts, he said, "unclogs the system."

"The marijuana consumers of Philadelphia welcome this," said Goldstein. "This is a very progressive thing to do on the part of the city," Goldstein said of the new policy. "I couldn't be happier about this."

Goldstein was much less enthused by the continued arrests policy. "It is completely absurd," he said. "It's harsh. For minor marijuana possession, it's very harsh treatment."

Nor was he convinced that the policy shift would do anything to reduce racially-biased marijuana law enforcement. "If we're paying attention to pot arrests in Philadelphia, we have to note that most are black. There hasn't been a single month when more than 10 white women have been arrested for less than 30 grams. Just go to a Phillies game parking lot. They could arrest a hundred white women in an hour out there," he said.

"At the same time, about 60 black women and 350 black men are getting arrested for it each month," Goldstein continued. "This points to bias in enforcement, and it costs a lot of money. We actually treat marijuana offenders here more harshly than anywhere else in the state, and it costs money. That's why the DA and the Supreme Court can initiate this change -- they're just bringing Philadelphia in line with the rest of the state and the region."

Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office director Roseanne Scotti, who lives in Philadelphia, had another concern about the policy shift. "My concern is that there could be an incentive to arrest more people, because it will cost the city less to process them," she said. "And the city will make money on fines. We could see net-widening, with even more people getting arrested. If that's the case, are we better off at the end of the day? This will be a time and money saver for the city, but is this really a good thing for people who use marijuana?"

Time will tell.

Marijuana: Another Colorado Town Votes to Legalize It

Voters in the Rocky Mountain town of Nederland, Colorado, voted Tuesday to remove all local penalties for adult marijuana possession. The measure passed with 54% of the vote in an election that also saw voters oust incumbent Mayor Martin Cheshes, who had opposed the ballot measure.

"It's a foolish thing to put on the ballot," Cheshes told the Daily Camera in nearby Boulder before the election. "If it passes, it enhances the reputation of Nederland as a kooky place, which I don't think we need, and if you're a marijuana advocate, it leaves the only penalties in place the state penalties, which are harsher."

Nederland becomes the third Colorado community to vote to legalize marijuana in the past five years. Denver voters did so in 2005, and the ski resort town of Breckenridge followed suit last year.

Under Colorado law small-time marijuana possession is decriminalized. Officials in Denver ignored the will of the voters there and continue to prosecute marijuana possession offenses under state law. But Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett may respond differently.

"I'll pay attention if it passes," he told the Daily Camera before the vote. "Marijuana enforcement is a sensitive issue, and it's important to gauge public sentiment."

"It's time for Colorado's elected officials to recognize that many -- and in some cases most -- of their constituents support an end to marijuana prohibition. Those who fail to do so are the 'foolish' ones, and in some areas it could result in them losing votes," said SAFER executive Mason Tvert.

"Nederland is not the first Colorado locality to express its opinion that marijuana should be legal for adults, and it certainly won't be the last," Tvert said. "More and more Coloradans are beginning to recognize the fact that marijuana is far safer than alcohol for the user and for society, and it's only a matter of time before they decide to stand up against irrational laws that drive people to drink by prohibiting them from making the safer choice."

The southwestern Colorado town of Durango could be the next to vote to legalize it, with organizers working to get an initiative on the local ballot. These votes are laying the groundwork for a probable statewide legalization initiative in 2012. A similar initiative got 44% of the vote in 2006, but recent polls show 50% of Colorado voters now supporting legalization.

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