You don’t have to look too hard to see marijuana legalization efforts in several states that have a good chance of being approved by the voters in 2016. But many of those efforts are mired-down with competing proposals and competing proponents that could easily undermine the ability of supporters in those states to actually change public policy and end prohibition.
The inability to accept compromise in the interest of building a winning coalition threatens to turn some of these political opportunities into losing efforts. And that would be a disaster.
Specifically, different factions with different political demands are competing for control of the issue in Massachusetts, Ohio and California, three large and important states that would add enormous legitimacy and political credibility to the legalization movement, were they to approve legalization in 2016.
How do we move from prohibition to legalization in my state?
That’s one of the most asked questions we hear every week at NORML.
With national media attention focusing on the favorable experience with legalization in Colorado and Washington, and on the not-yet-implemented legalization programs recently adopted in Oregon and Alaska, anyone living in a state that continues arresting and jailing marijuana smokers would naturally wonder why their state seems to have missed out on the drive to end marijuana prohibition.
More accurately, many of those states are lagging behind in the legalization movement, but that, too, will change. As we continue to gather data demonstrating these new laws are working as intended, with few unintended consequences, the drive to end marijuana prohibition will soon reach every state in the union, and beyond. We are no longer debating theory and conjecture; we now have real-life experiences that can be evaluated, and that data resource will grow with each new state.
Patience and persistence still required
We all need to accept the reality that changing public policy is a complex process that requires financial resources, re-education and political organizing. Following more than 75 years of criminal prohibition, and “reefer madness” propaganda by our state and federal governments, many Americans — especially older Americans — hold a negative view of marijuana and marijuana smoking, believing it presents a risk to health or public safety.
Since all but a few of us have lived under prohibition for our entire lives, it is understandable that many would presume there must have been some justification for those tens of millions of marijuana arrests. Surely our own government would not needlessly wreak havoc on all those lives and careers without a good reason.
From Michigan NORML:
The attitude of Michigan voters is evolving toward acceptance of legalizing and taxing marijuana use for adults, per a recent EPIC-MRA survey commissioned by the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MiNORML).
The poll shows 50% of Michigan adults would likely vote in favor of a system like those being utilized in Washington and Colorado, where marijuana is sold to adults and the proceeds are taxed by the state. 46% of respondents opposed the program. The results show a 3% increase in the acceptance of the tax and regulate legalization model from the previous survey, conducted in 2013 by the same firm.
The 2014 poll asked respondents if they would vote for a ballot proposal that would legalize marijuana use for adults 21 and over, create a system of licensed dispensaries to distribute the marijuana and tax its sale. 600 participants were surveyed on December 10 through 14, including 20% cell phone contact and the poll has a margin of error of ±4%.
“Michigan is a leader in the national trend toward reform of marijuana laws,” said Matthew Abel, attorney with Cannabis Counsel PLC in Detroit and the Executive Director of MiNORML. “This latest poll shows a major shift in attitude toward marijuana legalization over the last year. Legislators, take note: Michigan is ready for this.”
Support for legalized marijuana was greater among parents (52% likely YES) than among those voters without children (49%). Voters of all educational levels would approve a marijuana legalization ballot proposal; more than 50% of all the poll’s respondents (309) identify themselves as college-educated. 69% of those in the 18-34 age group responded as likely YES votes, as did 60% of all men age 18-49 and 70% of male Democrats. The largest demographic of opposition: Republican males (63% likely NO).
In conservative western Michigan the staunchest support for legalized marijuana was higher (40% definite YES), and opposition was lower (35% definite NO), than statewide averages (39% definite YES/36% definite NO). The statewide averages are skewed by numbers from the Bay Region that are significantly more negative toward legalization (38% likely YES/60% likely NO) than any other region surveyed.
Keith Stroup, national NORML founder and legal counsel, said “The latest Michigan polling results are in line with what we are seeing all across the country. Numerous polls have shown a majority of the public nationwide now support ending marijuana prohibition, and regulating and taxing the responsible use of marijuana by adults. It’s promising to see that voters in Michigan agree.”
The beginning of a new year provides an opportunity for reflection about what we hope to accomplish over the coming year, and whether there is a need to revise or fine-tune our tactics or strategy. It is also a time for allowing our hopes and dreams to take flight, even as we acknowledge we may not accomplish everything on our wish list within the next twelve months. By setting lofty goals, some of which may initially seem out-of-reach, we will surely move closer to our ultimate goal of full legalization all across the country.
Here are some strategies I propose we embrace for 2015.
1. Legalization is working well in Colorado and Washington, and we must continue to gather and spread the good news.
A poll conducted by the firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) revealed that 60% of Virginia voters would support decriminalizing the adult possession of small amounts of marijuana, indicating strong support for state Senator Adam Ebbin’s marijuana decriminalization measure, Senate Bill 686. Decriminalization had majority support from every age, racial, and gender demographic.
The survey also had support for legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Commonwealth at a record high of 49% support to 44% opposed.
With the legislative session kicking off in Virginia, expect to hear much more about this pending legislation in the coming weeks. If you are a Virginia resident, please CLICK HERE to quickly and easily contact your state Senator and urge their support for SB 686. It is time that our state officials pursued a policy on marijuana that was “Smart on crime and smart for Virginia.”
We strongly encourage you also attend Virginia NORML‘s lobby day in Richmond on January 16th to help put the pressure on state legislators in person. You can click here for more information on lobby day.
If you find yourself traveling in the Richmond area, keep your eyes peeled for Virginia NORML’s billboard in support of SB 686, which should be going on display very soon on Route 360 as you drive over the James River (the billboard image is featured at the top of this post).
This poll was commissioned by MPP and conducted by Public Policy Polling. You can read the full results here.