2012

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Marijuana Legalization Fares Well in Colorado, Massachusetts Polls

Two polls released late last week show strong support for marijuana legalization in Colorado and Massachusetts. Both states have already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot, and activists in both states are working toward legalization. In Colorado, an effort to put a legalization initiative on the ballot next year is well underway, while in Massachusetts, this year's emphasis is on legalizing medical marijuana.

In Massachusetts, a DAPA Research poll conducted for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition/NORML found that 58% support legalizing marijuana and regulating it like other agricultural commodities with sales prohibited to underage persons. The figure was 69% for Democrats, 44% for Republicans, and 54% for "other."

Support for legalization rose to 62% when respondents were asked if a proposed law would tax and regulate the cultivation and distribution of marijuana to adults like the state currently regulates alcohol. The figure was 70% for Democrats, 56% for Republicans, and 60% for "other."

The poll also found that 54% opposed the federal government disregarding state laws in states that legalize marijuana, while only 35% supported the federal government disregarding state law.

The Massachusetts poll was conducted in November. It surveyed 600 Massachusetts voters by telephone and has a margin of error of +/-4%.

"The data strongly suggests that Massachusetts voters are more ready than voters in any other state to end prohibition and establish reasonable regulation of cannabis cultivation and commerce for all purposes," said Steven Epstein, a founder and currently an officer of MassCann/NORML. "The data also establishes that if the legislature does not enact a law allowing medical use of marijuana this session the voters will overwhelmingly, perhaps 80%+, approve the voter initiative for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana at the ballot box in November."

"Legalization is essential to ending crime created by the prohibition of cannabis," said Cara Crabb-Burnham, a member of MassCann/NORML's board of directors. "It is important to recognize legal vendors will card customers and keep it out of the hands of children."

In Colorado, a Public Policy Polling survey asked "in general, do you think marijuana usage should be legal or illegal," and legal won by a margin of 49% to 40%. A similar question about medical marijuana showed support at 68%, with only 25% saying it should be illegal. No cross tabs were available for the poll.

The poll surveyed 793 Colorado voters from December 1 to 4. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.5%.  It was conducted via automated telephone interview.

The poll sends a mixed message for Colorado legalizers. It demonstrates that marijuana legalization is more popular than pot prohibition in the Rocky Mountain State, but not quite popular enough to win at the polls next year. The conventional wisdom among initiative experts is that they should be polling at 60% or above before the campaign begins.

But Art Way, Colorado manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Colorado Independent said he had seen polls showing stronger support than this one and that it was early yet. "I think it will go higher as the campaign heats up," he said.

WA State Voters Split on Marijuana Legalization

Washington state voters are evenly divided on the question of marijuana legalization, according to a poll released Monday. The Strategies 360 Washington Voter Survey found that of likely voters surveyed, 46% supported pot legalization and 46% opposed it.

The poll comes as advocates organized as New Approach Washington are in the midst of a signature-gathering campaign to place a legalization initiative, I-502, on the November 2012 general election ballot.

Polls conducted earlier this year did better. In July, an Elway poll had 30% "definitely supporting" legalization, with another 24% "inclined to support, but need[ing] to know more" -- a possible majority, but within the poll's +/- 5% margin of error. In January, as lawmakers considered bills that would decriminalize or legalize pot, KING5/SurveyUSA poll had 56% of respondents saying they thought legalization was a good idea, with 54% saying they thought lawmakers should allow marijuana to be sold at state-run liquor stores with the proceeds taxed.

The conventional wisdom among initiative campaign veterans is that a measure should start out polling at 60% or more to have a likelihood of breaking 50% on Election Day. For I-502 to start at 60%, its specific wording and title will have to win over some voters who responded negatively to these more general polls. Its ability to do so may in turn influence funders' willingness to support it. On the flip side, there is more than a year to go, and pro-legalization polling has continued to increase in most recent years.

In the current poll, marijuana legalization had its highest level of support among 2008 Obama voters (60%), Democrats or leaning Democratic (59%), independents (56%), King County and North Puget Sound residents (54%), and non-whites (51%).

The strongest opposition to legalization came from Republican and Republican leaning voters and 2008 McCain supporters (69%), Eastern Washington residents (59%), women (54%), and Western Washington residents (excluding King County and North Puget Sound) (52%).

The poll was conducted via telephone on September 11 through 14. It surveyed 500 Washington state residents who indicated they were likely to vote in the November 2012 election and included 400 who indicated they were likely to vote in the November 2011 election. The margin of error was +/- 4.4% for the 500-person sample and greater for subsamples.

Seattle, WA
United States

WA State Dems Endorse Marijuana Legalization

The Washington state Democratic Central Committee Saturday endorsed a marijuana legalization initiative, throwing the party's weight behind the effort to put the measure on the ballot for the November 2012 election.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/downtown_seattle.jpg
downtown Seattle
The Central Committee voted 75-43 for a resolution supporting Initiative 502, which would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and allow for its sale through pot-only stores regulated by the state liquor control authority. Initiative sponsors New Approach Washington estimate that marijuana legalization under its model would generate more than $200 a million a year in tax revenues, with more than half of that earmarked for public health programs.

The Democrats cited, among other things, law enforcement costs of marijuana prohibition and the revenues that could be gained with legalization. They noted that marijuana possession arrests, with mandatory 24-hour jail stays, accounted for half of all Washington drug arrests. 

I-502 is controversial among some segments of the marijuana legalization and medical marijuana communities because it also includes a per se driving under the influence provision. The initiative sets a blood THC level of 5 nanograms per millileter above which drivers are presumed to be impaired, but some activists argue that such a provision will result in the arrest and conviction of pot-accustomed drivers who are not actually impaired.

That didn't seem to bother the Democratic Central Committee too much, though. The committee included that provision in its long list of "whereases" in support of the initiative, noting that "this per se limit will not apply to the non-psychoactive marijuana metabolite carboxy-THC that can appear in blood or urine tests for days or even weeks after last use."

I-502 is supported by the ACLU of Washington, whose Alison Holcomb has taken a leave of absence to spearhead the campaign, and has been endorsed by prominent Washington figures, including former US Attorney John McKay (the man who prosecuted Marc Emery, ironically), Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and travel writer and TV show host Rick Steves.

Organizers have until next July to gather 241,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. But I-502 is an initiative to the legislature, meaning that if it passes the signature-gathering hurdle, it would then go before the state legislature in the upcoming session. If the legislature refuses to act, the initiative would then go before the voters in November 2012.

Bellingham, WA
United States

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