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Marijuana: Narrow Majority of Arkansans Favor Decriminalization, Poll Finds

A recent Zogby International poll commissioned by the Arkansas-based Drug Policy Education Group has found that a slight majority of respondents favor decriminalization of the adult use and possession of marijuana. The poll was conducted November 7-11 and was based on a Zogby online panel of 436 voters deemed by Zogby to be representative of the state's adult population. The margin of error was +/- 4.8%.

Respondents were asked the following question: "In 2007, over 7,400 adults were arrested in Arkansas for misdemeanor possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, over half the state's total drug arrests. According to a national 2005 study, state and local governments spend an average of $10,400 per arrest on police, courts, and jails. Based on that estimate, 2007 marijuana arrests will cost Arkansas taxpayers nearly $77 million dollars. Knowing this information, would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose a law that would eliminate the penalties for adult marijuana possession of one ounce or less?"

Slightly more than 35% strongly supported changing the pot laws, with another 17% somewhat supporting it, for a total of 53% in favor of decriminalization. On the other side of the coin, 38% strongly opposed and 7% somewhat opposed decrim, for a total of 45%. Three percent weren't sure.

Democrats and independents supported decrim by a margin of two-to-one, but only 29% of Republicans supported it. Intensity is on the side of Republicans, with 63% strongly opposed compared to 49% of both Democrats and Independents who are strongly in support.

A slim majority of voters under 64 would support decrim, with the highest proportion among the under-30 group. Among the young, 58% supported decrim. Majorities of both whites (51%) and African Americans (64%) said they would support such a law, while women (59%) were more likely than men (46%) to say they would support it.

A similar, but slightly differently worded poll commissioned by the Drug Policy Education Group in 2006 had similar findings. In that poll, which asked voters if they would support "reducing" the penalties for adult marijuana possession offenses, 61% said yes, while 35% said no.

Arkansas has been the scene of drug reform activism, mainly around marijuana, for several years now. Initiatives making adult marijuana possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority passed by two-to-one margins in Eureka Springs in 2006 and in the college town of Fayetteville this month. State drug reform groups like the Drug Policy Education Group and its predecessors have also been tilling the ground in the Razorback State. Reform bubbles up in the most surprising places, and these poll results suggest Arkansans may be more receptive than most people imagined.

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Besides the immediate costs...

The poll stated:

According to a national 2005 study, state and local governments spend an average of $10,400 per arrest on police, courts, and jails.

Are there studies of the loss of income and sales tax revenue lost by taking a working person out of the system? Considering a criminal record will stunt employment I'd guess there's a lot of potential for reduced future revenue as well.


Medical marijuana enjoys a lot of support here in Arkansas as well. Now what we need is for a group like the MPP to come in with a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana here in Arkansas. A lot of Arkansans would come out to support it. Quite a few of the right leaning fundamentalist Christians would come out against it because they would see it as part of the greater "culture war," but it still would probably win. This would be a major victory for the movement in general. We have West Coast and East Coast medical marijuana states, and now with Michigan a Midwestern medical marijuana state. If we can get a Southern Bible Belt state too the national politicians are going to start rethinking their stance, as will a lot of state legislators.

Wouldn't that be nice?

I live in southeast Arkansas, and here they love to catch someone with a roach and set them up with a fine of $1800 plus possible jail time.

Myself, well I have a severe form of glaucoma, already lost all sight in my left eye, only partial sight in right eye. And I am old and live on my social security retirement, its under $1200. per month. So, you see that medical marijuana, would be a load off my mind. I believe that if I were caught now, I could wind up in prison, blind and perhaps spend the rest of my life locked up. So, if the law was changed, my outlook would be improved. Wouldn't that be nice?
J. D. Southeast Arkansas USA

We are looking for patients who benefit from medical marijuana

J.D. Southeast Arkansas,

You said in a previous post, "I have a severe form of glaucoma, already lost all sight in my left eye, only partial sight in right eye." We are looking for patients here in Arkansas who benefit from medical marijuana to speak out on its behalf in future reform legislation. If you are interested I would appreciate it if you sent an e-mail my way to this address: [email protected]

Thank You,

Robert Pfountz

Erin J resp

If Conservative Arkansas voters are even marginalizing in polls for decriminilazation, this should say something to America...CHANGE in America. This isn't all that Barack was talking about, but the straight-laced, tight-lipped,"no-nonsense" poltical ideology is not flying with the younger generation. People are tired of spending their money on non-violent offenders and police force put into an endless drug war when black children in inner cities are dying everyday because of homicide and a shortage of police officers in ceratin areas. Put the manpower where it is needed and stop acting like you (the fed GOVT) gives a damn about treatment and rehab for drug users. The Drug war funds way too many special interests and that's what the problem is. Keep voting America, and we shall overcome this Drug War- A War on Americans!

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