Where are you on the War on Drugs?

It’s Not A Matter of ‘Should We Legalize Marijuana’ — It’s A Matter of ‘How We Legalize’

By Paul Armentano

Following Tuesday night’s defeat of Prop. 19, I made the following statement to the press:

“Throughout this campaign, even our opponents conceded that America’s present marijuana prohibition is a failure. They recognize that the question now isn’t ‘Should we legalize and regulate marijuana,’ but ‘How should we legalize and regulate marijuana?’”

A just-released, comprehensive post-election poll of California voters strongly supports this sentiment, and further points towards the likelihood of passing a successful marijuana regulation measure in 2012.

Among some of the polls findings:

* Fifty percent of California voters, regardless of how they voted on Prop. 19, “think the use of marijuana should be made legal.”

* Further, of those voters who rejected Prop. 19, more than 30 percent believe that “marijuana should be legalized or penalties … should be reduced.”

* A majority of Californian voters (52 percent to 37 percent) believe “laws against marijuana do more harm than good.”

* Finally, the poll reaffirms that victory at the ballot box comes down most of all to voter turnout. The survey reports, “If youth had comprised the same percentage of the electorate on Tuesday as they do in Presidential election years, Prop. 19 would have been statistically tied.”

You can read more here:

Despite rejecting Prop. 19, Californians lean toward legalizing marijuana, poll finds
Via The Los Angeles Times

California voters rejected Prop. 19, but a post-election poll found that they still lean toward legalizing marijuana for recreational use and, if young voters had turned out as heavily on Tuesday as they do for presidential elections, the result would have been a close call.

The survey, conducted by the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, suggests that California voters had qualms with this initiative, but remain open to the idea. A majority, 52%, said marijuana laws, like alcohol prohibition, do more harm than good.

“There’s a fair amount of latent support for legalization in California,” said Anna Greenberg, the firm’s senior vice president. “It is our view, looking at this research, that if indeed legalization goes on ballot in 2012 in California, that it is poised to win.”

Voters think marijuana should be legalized, 49% to 41%, with 10% uncertain, the poll found, but were evenly split over whether they thought it was inevitable in California.

“The question about legalizing marijuana is no longer when, it’s no longer whether, it’s how,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “There’s a really strong body of people who will be ready to pull the lever in the future.”

… The poll also found that a quarter of those who voted on Proposition 19 had considered voting the other way, suggesting that a different initiative or a different campaign could change the result.

“We have fluidity,” Greenberg said. “The issue does not have the kind of hard and fast kind of polarization that we’ve seen with other so-called moral or social issues.”

Among voters who opposed Prop. 19, 31% said they believe marijuana should be legalized or penalties reduced, but they objected to the some specifics of the initiative.

The poll did not probe what it was about the measure that did not appeal to these voters. “Among the no votes, we’re seeing a significant proportion who we believe will ultimately support marijuana legalization in the future,” Nadelmann said.

Prop. 19 would have allowed adults 21 and older to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana or possess up to an ounce. But it also included a provision to protect marijuana users from discrimination that opponents, including the Chamber of Commerce, ridiculed. They claimed it would allow nurses and bus drivers to come to work stoned, which the campaign disputed.

The poll found some evidence that this issue may have cut into the initiative’s support. Voters said by 50% to 44% that employers should have the right to fire workers who test positive for marijuana even if they arrive sober and ready to work.

The initiative was the brainchild of Richard Lee, a medical marijuana businessman in Oakland who paid professionals to draft the measure and made the key decisions on its approach.

Lee chose to give cities and counties the power to approve marijuana sales, not the state Legislature, a system that would allow a patchwork approach much like medical marijuana. The poll suggested that voters prefer that local control approach, finding that 44% trust city and county governments more to control marijuana, while 38% trust state government more.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner surveyed 796 voters who participated in the election by phone between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

In short, the key now isn’t to convince voters that marijuana prohibition is a failure, but to find a consensus among voters regarding what is the best alternative.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML and the NORML Foundation. He is also the co-author of the new book “Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?” (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009).

Copyright © 2010 Paul Armentano

One Response to Where are you on the War on Drugs?

  1. harry davis says:

    Until our all-knowing government releases its stronghold and it’s unsupported position on cannabis being a “Highly Addictive Drug” and until big alcohol
    (ie:Miller, Bud,etc) accepts cannibis as a social drug and should be regulated as such…….well then, lets just keep on getting our social drug the same damn way the “Socialites” got their martinis during prohibition.It’s not hard to understand this logic. It’s just too damn INCONVENIENT to accept it!

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