Marijuana Legalization

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Marijuana Legalization Breaks 60% in Colorado Poll

Amendment 64 billboard (regulatemarijuana.org)
In November, voters in Colorado will decide whether to approve Amendment 64, a state-wide ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana like alcohol. A new Rasmussen poll released Monday suggests the initiative could be well on the way to victory.

In its June 6 survey of likely voters, Rasmussen found support for marijuana legalization at 61%. More strikingly, only 27% opposed legalization, with 12% undecided. Respondents were asked whether they supported "legalizing marijuana and regulating it in a way similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are regulated today."

The conventional wisdom among initiative watchers is that initiatives need to be polling at 60% or above at the beginning of the campaign to have a chance of winning. Veteran observers note that opponents of an initiative are always able to peel away some support with negative campaigning late in the game.

But in Colorado, not only is support for pot legalization strong, it is trending upward. A December 2011 Public Policy Polling survey had support at 49%, with 40% saying it should remain illegal.

Marijuana legalization also had more support than either major party presidential candidate. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney garnered 45% support. How the politics of marijuana in Colorado will affect the presidential race there remains to be seen.

Rasmussen conducted phone interviews with 500 likely Colorado voters. The poll's margin of error is +/-4.5%.

CO
United States

Marijuana Discord on the French Left

Just days before the first round of French parliamentary elections, the Socialists and their probable junior partner in a new governing coalition, the Greens, were at odds over marijuana policy. While the spat is unlikely to undo the electoral pact between the two parties, it has pushed pot into the election campaign.

Champs de Elysee, Paris (wikipedia.org)
Newly-elected Socialist President Francoise Hollande appointed Green Party head Cecile Duflot Minister of Housing -- one of two Greens in the interim cabinet. This week, Duflot unleashed the controversy by saying she backed marijuana legalization.

That left Hollande's team with the task of reiterating the Socialists' opposition to such a move. During a Wednesday night television interview Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tried to put the matter to bed. When asked if Hollande supported legalization, Ayrault said that Hollande had opposed it during the campaign.

"The answer is very clear, and it's no," he told TF1.

If, as expected, the left wins the parliamentary election, Duflot would have to quit as head of the Greens and leave her legalization position behind in order to stay in the cabinet. She will do that, Ayrault said.

"Madame Duflot will do as she promised. From June 23, she will be a minister only, serving solely her mission as a member of the government," he said.

But even if Duflot backs away from legalization, there is little sign the rest of the Greens will.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, known as "Danny the Red" for his role in the 1968 Paris student uprising, a Green Party veteran, said Thursday he hoped the party would press for a legalization bill in the National Assembly.

"It's time to ditch the hypocrisy and double-speak," he told RMC radio. "Today's repression simply plays into the hands of drug traffickers."

Polls this week show the Socialists poised on the verge of winning a parliamentary victory outright, but they will probably need the support of smaller parties on the left, most notably the Greens, but also the Left Front to achieve any sort of parliamentary comfort zone. The Assembly has 577 seats, while polls show the Socialists could take as many as 291, leaving them a razor-thin majority. Support from the Greens and the Left Front could add another 20 or so seats to what would then be a governing coalition led by the Socialists.

Paris
France

Another Poll Shows Majority Supports Legalizing Marijuana

An Angus-Reid Public Opinion poll released Wednesday is just the latest to show majority support for marijuana legalization. The poll had support for legalization at 52%, with 44% opposed.

That's in line with a Rasmussen poll released a couple of weeks ago that had support for legalizing and regulating marijuana at 56%, and also in line with other recent polls that show legalizing gaining majority support and trending upward.

In the Angus-Reid poll, majorities of men (60%), independents (57%), people under 55 (54%) and Democrats (54%) supported pot legalization, while people over 55 (48%), women (45%), and Republicans (43%) were less likely to support it.

Marijuana legalization is on the ballot this year in Colorado and Washington, with signature-gathering campaigns for more legalization initiatives still underway in Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, and Oregon. The West has generally shown higher levels of support for legalization than the rest of the country, but Angus-Reid has not made a geographic breakdown of support available for this poll.

While a majority supports marijuana legalization, that's not the case for other drugs. Only 10% would support legalizing ecstasy, 9% cocaine, 8% heroin or crack cocaine, and 7% methamphetamine.

But two-thirds (66%) think the war on drugs is a failure, while only 10% think it has been a success. That opinion cuts across the political spectrum, with majorities of independents (69%), Republicans (63%), and Democrats (63%) saying the drug war is a failure.

Still, 68% thought America has a serious drug problem that affects the whole country. One-fifth (20%) thought drug problems were limited to specific areas and people, while 5% thought America doesn't have a drug problem.

The poll was an online survey of a representative sample of 1,017 American adults with a margin of error of +/-3.1%.

Marijuana Tax and Regulate Questions Aim at Massachusetts Ballot

A drive to put non-binding public policy questions on the ballot in select Massachusetts electoral districts this November has cleared its first hurdle. Late last month, the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts announced that it had handed the requisite signatures to qualify in the 2nd Berkshire State Representative District.

Voters there will be asked: "Shall the representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow the state to regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol?"

The group is also doing signature-gathering to get the same question on the ballot in four state senate districts that encompass Cambridge, Somerville, a third of Boston, and eight suburban towns. And it is working to expand the signature-gathering drive to districts that include the rest of Boston. The Drug Policy Forum said it expects 10% of voters in the state to be able to vote on the question by the time the dust settles.

Various drug reform groups are working together on the drives. In addition to the Forum, they include MassCann/NORML, Suffolk University NORML, Boston University SSDP, and other SSDP chapters.

This year's non-binding public policy question campaign will mark the seventh consecutive election in which activists have put marijuana policy-related questions to voters. They have yet to lose in 63 votes. In 2010, activists put the tax and regulate public policy question to the test in eight representative and one senate district, winning each, and none by a margin of less than 54%.

Voters across the state will also be voting on a binding medical marijuana referendum, so marijuana will be much on the minds of Bay State voters this year.

MA
United States

Detroit to Vote on Marijuana Legalization in August

The Michigan Supreme Court has cleared the way -- finally -- for Detroiters to vote on a marijuana legalization initiative. The high court Friday refused to hear an expedited appeal of a February appeals court ruling that Detroit election officials had acted improperly when they blocked the measure from getting on the ballot.

Detroit skyline (saferdetroit.net)
That means Detroit residents can expect to see the initiative on the August 7 primary ballot. The initiative, sponsored by the Coalition for a Safer Detroit, would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over by amending the city's controlled substances ordinance to say that it does not apply to small-time pot possession by adults.

Although initiative supporters had cleared all the legal hurtles to making the ballot back in 2010, the measure was opposed by the Detroit City Council, especially Council President Charles Pugh, who also serves as chairman of the Detroit Election Commission. The commission voted 3-0 to block the measure from appearing on the city ballot.

But initiative advocates were undeterred and persevered in pursuing the matter through the courts. Now, with the Supreme Court rejecting the city's motion for immediate consideration of its appeal, they have prevailed.

"A long trail of voter abuse by the City of Detroit has come to an end," said the Coalition's Tim Beck, in an e-mail to supporters. "We got everything right. Our petitions were flawless," said Beck.

Detroit Mayor Bing had no comment Friday evening, but a Detroit police spokesman told the Detroit Free Press the department could adapt to legalization "if it's handled in an appropriate way, and this is what the citizens of Detroit choose."

That's a remarkably open-minded and democratic statement from Detroit police, especially when compared to law enforcement reactions elsewhere to legalization, lowest law enforcement priority, and medical marijuana votes. It will be up to the voters of Detroit to ensure that the department lives up to its word.

Detroit, MI
United States

Poll Finds California Not Quite There on Marijuana Legalization

Californians overwhelmingly support medical marijuana, especially for "patients with terminal and debilitating conditions," but when it comes to legalizing it, a new poll finds the state has a ways to go. According to the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, only 46% of respondents favored legalization, with 50% opposed.

On medical marijuana, 80% supported it, with 62% strongly supporting and 18% supporting. Only 17% were opposed, and 3% pronounced themselves undecided.

On marijuana legalization, the poll asked "Do you think marijuana should be legalized for recreational or general use by adults?" One-third (33%) strongly supported legalization, while another 13% supported it. Strong opposition to legalization was at 42%, with soft opposition at 8%, while the remaining 4% either had no opinion or refused to answer.

Looking at the poll's cross tabs provides a more detailed breakdown of where support for legalization is strong and where it isn't. The cross tabs show majority support for legalization among independents (56%) and Democrats (51%), but not Republicans (28%). Among ethnic groups, half of blacks (50%) support legalization, and 49% of whites, but only 37% of Hispanics. Among people with kids, only 47% support legalization, but that's one point higher than people without kids (46%).

Support for legalization correlates with income. Among people making $50,000 a year or more, support was at 54%, while among people making less than that, support was only at 40%.

The only region of the state with majority support for legalization was the San Francisco Bay area, with 55%, followed by Los Angeles County (49%), Sacramento and Northern California (46%), the Central Coast (42%), Southern California outside of LA County (41%), and the Central Valley (34%).

The gender gap evident in other marijuana polls also shows up in this one. While 51% of men favored legalization, only 41% of women did.

With no legalization initiatives making the ballot this year, California activists have at least two years to work on upping the numbers. It looks like they better be prepared to do a lot of talking to Hispanic women with kids and low-paying jobs.

CA
United States

Marijuana Legalization Advocate Wins Texas Congressional Primary

Former El Paso city councilman Beto O'Rourke has defeated US Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the battle for the Democratic Party nomination for the seat Reyes has held since 1996. According to election results from the Texas Secretary of State's office early Wednesday morning, O'Rourke had picked up 51.3% of the vote to Reyes' 41.3%, meaning O'Rourke also avoids the need for a run-off election.

Beto O'Rourke (betoforcongress.com)
O'Rourke is a vocal drug policy reformer who has specifically called for marijuana legalization, while Reyes, a former Border Patrol official, has built a career on tough on the border and tough on drugs politics.

O'Rourke garnered national attention in 2009, when he championed a council resolution calling for a national conversation on legalizing and regulating drugs as a possible solution to the drug cartel violence just over El Paso's border in Mexico. The mayor vetoed the unanimously-passed resolution and the council was set to override the veto until Congressman Reyes threatened that the city would lose federal funding if it insisted on pushing the legalization conversation. The override vote failed, but O'Rourke has managed to use the issue as a launching pad for his campaign against what had been a heavily-favored incumbent.

O'Rourke has spoken eloquently of the violence in Mexico and its roots in drug prohibition, including at Drug Policy Alliance conferences, and is the coauthor, along with fellow El Paso city council member Susie Byrd, of Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the US and Mexico, which calls explicitly for marijuana legalization.

"O'Rourke's victory demonstrates that support for drug policy reform, and even for legalizing marijuana, is no detriment to electoral success - in fact it was a key asset in his triumph," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Action, the Alliance's campaign and lobbying arm.. "Reyes' surprising defeat, meanwhile, shows that kneejerk support for persisting with failed drug war tactics can hurt politicians at the ballot box."

Earlier this month, the Democratic primary for Attorney General in Oregon featured a similar dynamic. Ellen Rosenblum won a surprising victory over favorite Dwight Holton, in a race in which medical marijuana became a major issue. Rosenblum is supportive of patients' right to safe and legal access to medical marijuana, while her opponent, former Interim U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton, is sharply critical of the program. Although Holton was heavily favored early in the race, he was targeted for defeat by supporters of medical marijuana after actively trying to undermine responsible state regulation. With no Republican filing for the office, Rosenblum is all but certain to be the state's next attorney general.

"Beto O'Rourke's congressional victory in Texas, coming on the heels of Ellen Roseblum's victory in Oregon's attorney general race, shows that drug policy reform is no longer a third rail in American politics," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action. "In both of those races, the candidates' views on marijuana reform were used against them in attacks by their opponents - and in both cases, the voters supported the pro-reform candidate. A majority of Americans now favor treating marijuana like alcohol, and strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans say the federal government should not interfere with state medical marijuana laws. From blue states like Oregon to red states like Texas, it's a new day for the politics of drug policy reform."

Having won the Democratic primary, O'Rourke is well placed for a victory in November in this solidly Democratic district that has sent Reyes to Washington eight times. But now, it's a drug reformer El Paso is likely to send to Congress, not a drug warrior.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

El Paso, TX
United States

Status Report: Statewide Marijuana Legalization Initiatives [FEATURE]

As summer draws near, the election picture when it comes to statewide marijuana legalization initiatives is becoming a bit clearer. At the beginning of the year, activists in eight states undertook efforts to get initiatives on the ballot, but the field has been winnowed.

With polling this year starting to show majority support for legalization and regulation, 2012 could be the year that legalization actually wins, and voters in at least two states -- Colorado and Washington -- will have the chance to make that happen. Initiatives in those two states have already been approved for the ballot, and the election campaigns are underway.

Four separate and competing initiatives from a divided marijuana movement came up short in the past few weeks in California, while the Show Me Cannabis Regulation initiative in Missouri, long on heart but short on funds, gave up the ghost for this year earlier this month. Activists in both states are planning to return to the fray in 2014.

That leaves four states -- Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Nebraska -- where initiatives are still in the signature-gathering phase. Within a few weeks, we will know for sure whether any of them will make it to the ballot in November, but as of this week, Oregon appears best placed to join Colorado and Washington in the fall.

Here's how it's looking in the four states where initiatives are still trying to qualify for the ballot:

Michigan

The Committee for a Safer Michigan is currently circulating petitions for its constitutional amendment to repeal marijuana prohibition. The committee has until July 9 to gather the 322,609 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot. So far, it has only handed in about 35,000, but organizers say many signature-bearing petitions are still out in the field.

"The number of signatures we have in hand is significantly lower than the real number," said Brandi Zink, campaign volunteer coordinator. "We have 2500 volunteers out there with petitions."

If each volunteer signature gatherer has only come up with 100 signatures so far, that would be another 250,000, putting the 306,000 valid signatures within reach.

The campaign will make a big push in the final weeks, but desperately needs money, Zink said.

"We've been reaching out to the political parties here," she said. "We have friends in the Democratic Party and Ron Paul supporters among the Republicans. We are going to be at every major festival and we're still recruiting volunteers, but we still need help and we still need donations.  Anyone who would like to give generously to our effort will be most appreciated. We certainly have the will and the boots on the ground. If we had money, we can get this on the ballot and win."

Zink called on drug reformers across the country to chip in.

"We're asking people in the reform movement to please contribute," she said. "If you're not in Michigan, this is how you can make a difference here. What we're doing in the Midwest can have an impact throughout the nation."

Montana

Montana First
, the same group of activists and supporters who last summer and fall organized the successful signature-gathering campaign to put the IR-124 medical marijuana initiative on the November 2012 ballot to undo the legislature's destruction of the state medical marijuana distribution network, is also working on a legalization initiative, Constitutional Initiative No.110 (CI-110).

It would add two sentences to the state constitution: "Adults have the right to responsibly purchase, consume, produce, and possess marijuana, subject to reasonable limitations, regulations, and taxation. Except for actions that endanger minors, children, or public safety, no criminal offense or penalty of this state shall apply to such activities."

To qualify for the ballot, campaigners need to gather some 45,000 valid voter signatures, and Montana law also requires that those signatures include 10% of voters in at least 40 of 100 of the state's electoral districts. They have until June 22, and they're less than halfway there, but still holding out hope.

"We're making a serious run, and we have one month left. We're behind on our goals, but we're accelerating rapidly, and that gives me some cause for optimism," said Montana First's John Masterson. "We have about 20,000 signatures so far and we're gearing up for primary day on June 5. If we do everything right on that day we could double what we have," he said.

"We've got a small army of signature-gatherers on the street, and we have some paid signature-gatherers, too," Masterson said. "People are coming out from under their rocks despite the federal raids, despite the radical acts of the legislature, despite their fears. They are saying they have to stand up and fight for the right of adults to use cannabis in responsible ways."

Nebraska

The Nebraska Prop 19 2012 Cannabis Initiative would amend the state constitution so that any law regarding the private, non-commercial cultivation and consumption of marijuana would be forbidden, with the legislature directed to enact regulations for commercial sales and cultivation. Any current laws violating the amendment, such as the current marijuana laws, are declared null and void and convictions for violations of them are set aside.

 

In addition to the web site above, the campaign has a Facebook petition page and has shown some signs of life, holding events in Lincoln and Omaha, but has otherwise been remarkably stealthy. While the initiative was filed by McCook attorney Frank Shoemaker, the signature-gathering campaign has reportedly been taken on by the Nebraska Cannabis Alliance.

 

We have no reliable reports of far the campaign has progressed, but it needs just under 50,000 signatures to make the November ballot and has until July to do so.



Oregon

In Oregon, two separate initiatives appear poised to make the ballot with six weeks left to gather signatures. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) initiative, which would allow for the legal cultivation and sale of marijuana, needs 87,213 valid signatures to make the ballot. The Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative constitutional amendment, which would give adult Oregonians the constitutional right to possess marijuana, has to reach a higher threshold of 116,284.

Both measures have until July 6 to turn in signatures, but also face a Friday deadline for turning in enough signatures to qualify for early verification by the secretary of state's office. The early verification allows campaigns to know whether they have come up short because of invalid signatures and gives them six weeks to make up the difference. Both initiatives appear well-placed to do so.

"As of Sunday, we had 109,000 signatures in hand," said Paul Stanford, the primary force behind OCTA. "That's 127% of the total. Assuming an invalidation rate of 30% to 35%, we need to turn in 132,000 to 136,000. We're getting about 10,000 a week, and we have six and a half weeks left," he said.

Stanford has largely funded the OCTA campaign through his multi-state chain of medical marijuana clinics -- not dispensaries -- and said he had pumped $60,000 of his money into the campaign this month.

"We need 116,300 signatures turned in for early approval, and we currently have 132,000," said Robert Wolfe, proponent for OMPI. "We are going to make the ballot, no question about it. The secretary of state will disqualify some percentage, so we're aiming for 185,000 and we'll be collecting up until the deadline."

Both men said that in the event both measures made the ballot, they would complement -- not contradict -- each other.

"The OMPI is a constitutional amendment that requires that the state regulate cannabis, and our OCTA initiative would fulfill that regulatory requirement and save the legislature from contentious debate," said Stanford.

While Wolfe agreed that the two measures could complement each other, he also expressed concerns about mixed messaging.

"There is a difference in the messaging," he said. "We've been careful to frame this as an issue of social justice and wasted resources, while a lot of the OCTA supporters have a more strident marijuana lifestyle message. Those aren't the voters we're trying to attract. We can't win an election with hardcore cannabis supporters alone; we have to appeal to mainstream voters by talking about things they think are important."

Still, having two marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot is the kind of problem activists in other states wish they had.

What happened to California?

While the failure of the Missouri initiative to make the ballot was not a huge surprise -- it faced big obstacles in the south-central state -- the failure of an initiative to make the ballot in California was a surprise and a disappointment to many reformers, especially after the state came so close with Proposition 19 in 2010.

But the failure of Prop 19, along with the conflicts over medical marijuana, may have sealed the fate of initiative efforts in the Golden State this year, said long-time California scene-watcher and CANORML head Dale Gieringer.

"We just voted on this, and people didn't quite buy it," he said, referring to the Prop 19 defeat. "And the polling hadn't moved. We have a fair amount of chaos in our medical marijuana system, and as long as California voters don't have the confidence we can regulate medical marijuana well, I think they're reluctant to open the doors to further chaos with legalization."

The ongoing federal crackdown on medical marijuana wasn't helping, either, he added.

The failure in 2010 also scared off big money funders, said Gieringer, who estimated it would cost a million dollars just to make the ballot.

"There wasn't the money to do it. We tried in 2010, and it's hard to come back two elections in a row," he said. "Since the polls hadn't moved, the funders weren't terribly interested and thought they could get better bang for their buck in Colorado and Washington and maybe Oregon."

Although there were four separate initiatives, he said, "You add up all the funding for all the initiatives, and it's just not very much. Even if there had been only one initiative, it wouldn't have had a chance."

California led the way with medical marijuana in 1996 and with Proposition 19 in 2010, but if activists in Colorado, Washington, and maybe Oregon, Montana, Michigan, or Nebraska have their way, it will not be the first state to legalize marijuana.

Marijuana Legalization Hits 56% Support in Rasmussen Poll

A Rasmussen poll of likely voters released Tuesday found support for legalizing and regulating marijuana at 56% nationwide, a significant increase over a March Rasmussen poll and in line with other recent polls that show legalizing gaining majority support and trending upward.

The poll comes ahead of elections in November that will see votes in at least two states, Colorado and Washington, vote on marijuana legalization initiatives. Efforts are still underway to get on the ballot in four other states -- Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, and Oregon. The poll did not break down support by state.

Legalization garnered majority support among both sexes and across age groups, although with some significant differences. While 61% of men supported "legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol or cigarettes," only 52% of women did, reflecting a gender gap apparent in other polls. And while even seniors came in with 50% support, only 49% of respondents with minor children supported legalization.

Support in that demographic jumped, however, when pollsters asked if they would favor legalization "if no one under 18 could buy it, it was banned in public, and there were strict penalties for driving under the influence." Under those conditions, support among parents jumped to 58% and support among Republicans increased to 52%, bumping up overall support for legalization one point to 57%.

The poll also asked whether it should not be a crime "for someone to smoke marijuana" in private. Only 32% agreed that private pot-smoking should remain a crime, while 68% disagreed.

The same poll asked whether US drug consumption is a major cause of drug violence in Mexico and Central America, with 62% agreeing that it is. More surprisingly, 47% said they agreed with legalizing marijuana and cocaine if it would reduce the violence along the Mexican border. But in another question in the poll, only 11% agreed with legalizing and regulating cocaine.

The poll sampled 1,000 likely voters. It has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Danish Government Rejects Legal Marijuana

There will be no hash bars or cannabis cafes in Copenhagen at any time in the near future. Over the weekend, the Danish government rejected Copenhagen's request to experiment with legalizing cannabis sales in the city.

downtown Copenhagen (wikimedia.org)
In a letter to the Copenhagen city council, Social Democratic Justice Minister Morten Bødskov wrote that the government was rejecting the request because it feared it would lead to increased availability and use of the herb and because it had been linked to a variety of side effects.

"Because of this the government will not permit the experiment," Bødskov wrote.

City council members, who had overwhelmingly supported the request, said they were disappointed in the decision.

"It’s very disappointing," councilman and deputy mayor for social affairs Mikkel Warming told public broadcaster DR. "The prohibitive policies we have operated under in Denmark for so many years have not worked. You can still buy hash on street corners across the city which also means the hash is mixed up with other harder drugs. Criminals also pocket about two billion kroner a year from the trade."

Warming said he would continue to work for marijuana legalization and counseled patience, noting that it took a decade for parliament to approve a supervised injection room for hard drug users.

"Legalization would limit the gang conflict and it would also give us access to the group of users who have been left to the criminal environment," councilman Lars Aslan Rasmussen told Ritzau. "We had hoped that they would take our proposal seriously, as we have the support of 80% of the city council. Copenhagen has a serious problem because the gang conflict is a result of the trade in marijuana. The gangs turn over more money than 7-Eleven."

With the action by the Danish government, the black market profits of Denmark's hash slingers and pot dealers will remain safe for now.

Copenhagen
Denmark

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