Nearly nine out of ten Americans — including 80 percent of self-identified Republicans — now say that marijuana should be legal if its use is permitted by a physician, according to nationwide Fox News telephone poll of 1,010 registered voters. The poll, released today, was conducted by under the direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) and possesses margin of sampling error of ± 3 percentage points.
According to the poll, 85 percent of voters agree that adults ought to be allowed to use cannabis for therapeutic purposes if a physician authorizes it. The total marked an increase in support of four percent since Fox last polled the question in 2010 and is the highest level of public support for the issue ever reported in a scientific poll.
Although respondents were divided on whether they believed that “most people who smoke medical marijuana truly need it,” the overwhelming majority of voters nonetheless agreed that consuming the plant should be legal if a doctor permits it.
To date, eighteen states and Washington, DC have enacted laws authorizing the physician-supervised use of cannabis therapy. Medical cannabis legalization measures are presently pending in a number of additional state legislatures, including Illinois, New Hampshire, and New York.
Voters in the Fox News poll were less supportive of the notion of legalizing the non-medical consumption of marijuana. The poll reported that only 46 percent of voters favored broader legalization, while 49 percent of respondents opposed the idea. Self-identified Democrats (57 percent) were far more likely to support legalizing cannabis than Republicans (33 percent) or Independents (47 percent). Men (51 percent) were more likely to support legalization than were women (41 percent). Those age 35 or under were most likely (62 percent) to back legalization while those age 65 and older were least likely (31 percent) to be supportive.
By contrast, in recent months national polls by The Pew Research Center, YouGov.com, Quinnipiac University, and Public Policy Polling have reported majority public support for legalizing and regulating the adult use of cannabis.
Despite the overwhelming public support for medical marijuana law reform, legislation in Congress to amend federal law to allow for its use it states which permit it — House Bill 689, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act — only possess 16 co-sponsors (less than four percent of the entire US House of Representatives). The bill has been referred to both the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health and to the House Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations — neither of which have scheduled the bill for a public hearing.
US Representative and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today reiterated her support for the legalization of medical cannabis and called for congressional efforts to recognize the plant’s therapeutic efficacy.
Speaking to Raw Story, Rep. Pelosi said, “I have long supported efforts in Congress to advocate federal policies that recognize the scientific research and clinical research demonstrating the medical benefits of medicinal marijuana, that respects the wishes of the states in providing relief to ill individuals, and that prevents the federal government from acting to harm the safe access to medicinal marijuana provided under state law.”
“I’ve been very clear on the subject of medical marijuana over time,” she said, “in committee and on the floor as leader.”
Pelosi told Raw Story and other bloggers in attendance at the round table that she believed congress should take action on the issue. Speaking to this point she stated, “I think that it would be really important to do that [address medical marijuana in congress]. It would be hard for anyone to agree with the fact that someone who has HIV/AIDS or has cancer and they find relief from pain in medicinal marijuana that should be something that should be a priority to raid on the part of the Justice Department. Going along with that, we need to address some of the penalties for any non-violent crime that are out there.”
With prominent Democrats such as Representative Pelosi, Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, New York Governor Cuomo, and the Democratic Parties in a growing number of states getting behind marijuana law reform, you have to wonder how long until President Obama realizes his drug policy has fallen out of touch with not just the electorate, but his own party.
You can read more in-depth coverage of the blogger roundtable, along with comments from other legislators on the marijuana issue, by clicking here.
Not to be outdone by the Democrats, whose state parties in Washington, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, and Iowa have all recently adopted pro-reform policies in their platforms, the Montana Republican Party has endorsed medical marijuana at their state convention held on June 16th. The official language from their 2012 platform is as follows:
Medical Use of Marijuana
We recognize that a significant problem exists with Montana’s current laws regarding the medical use of marijuana and we support action by the next legislature to create a workable and realistic regulatory structure.
This endorsement should be taken with a grain of salt, considering it was the Montana Republicans who had previously attempted to veto Montana’s medical program entirely and, when that was not politically feasible, passed SB 423 which greatly restricts the number of patients who may qualify to use medical cannabis legally under state’s voter-approved law.
The Republicans’ endorsement comes just over a week after the Montana Democratic Party adopted a similar resolution. At their convention, held from June 8th-9th, the Democrats also publicly voiced support for medical marijuana in their platform:
WHEREAS, the voters of Montana approved by initiative the compassionate use of medical marijuana
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Montana Democratic Party supports the right of qualified patients, with a medical condition where marijuana is appropriate, to have safe access to medical marijuana.
This provides a rare instance where both the political right and left seem to agree on a single issue.
Hopefully this political support turns into success at the ballot box. Montana residents will be casting their vote this November to decide whether or not to strike down SB 423, a measure passed in 2011 through the legislature that essentially gutted the 2004 voter approved medical marijuana measure already in place. You can read more about the upcoming referendum vote here.
If you wish to learn more about the fight over medical marijuana in Montana, NORML highly recommends watching the documentary “Code of the West” as it does a fantastic job of explaining and detailing the ups and downs in the battle to save the state’s medical cannabis program.
North Carolina Democratic Party Passes Resolutions in Support of Medical Marijuana and Industrial HempJune 19, 2012
Hot on the heels of the Texas Democratic Party’s endorsement of marijuana decriminalization, the North Carolina Democratic Party endorsed two resolutions in support of marijuana law reform of their own. On Saturday, June 16th, the party held their state convention in Raleigh, NC. During this meeting they passed two reform minded resolutions, one calling for the legalization of medical marijuana and one for the industrial cultivation of hemp. The official text of the resolutions are as follows:
51. IN SUPPORT OF LEGALIZING MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN NORTH CAROLINA (11TH CD)
WHEREAS, “Medical Marijuana” has been demonstrated to be an effective drug for treatment of certain human ailments; and
WHEREAS, Current North Carolina law denies doctors the right to treat patients by prescribing
Medical Marijuana; and
WHEREAS, Many states currently allow doctors to prescribe Medical Marijuana, a policy resulting in relief from pain and suffering for their patients; and
WHEREAS, Many other treatments legally prescribed by doctors are known to be extremely dangerous when misused.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the State of North Carolina grant doctors the right to prescribe Medical Marijuana in the same way they prescribe other drugs; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That the State of North Carolina legalize the use of Medical Marijuana.
52. IN SUPPORT OF THE RENEWAL OF INDUSTRIAL HEMP AS AN AGRICULTURAL CROP IN NORTH CAROLINA (11TH CD)
WHEREAS, in 2006, the N.C. State Legislature passed a Bill (House 1723/Senate 1572) to create an independent commission to study the beneficial uses of industrial hemp, among other studies, but there has never been any report or follow through to the study, and
WHEREAS, American companies are forced to import millions of dollar’s worth of hemp seed and fiber products annually from Canada, Europe, and China, thereby effectively denying American farmers an opportunity to compete and share in the profits; and
WHEREAS, nutritious hemp foods can be found in grocery stores nationwide and strong durable hemp fibers can be found in the interior parts of millions of American cars; and
WHEREAS, buildings are being constructed using hemp and lime mixture, thereby sequestering carbon; and
WHEREAS, retail sales of hemp products in this country are estimated to be over $400 million annually; and
WHEREAS, industrial hemp is a high-value low input crop that is not genetically modified, requires little or no pesticides, can be dry land farmed, and uses less fertilizer than wheat and corn; and
WHEREAS, the reluctance of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to permit industrial hemp farming is denying agricultural producers in this country the ability to benefit from a high value, low-input crop, which can provide significant economic benefits to producers and manufacturers; and
WHEREAS, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has the authority under the Controlled Substances Act to allow this state to regulate industrial hemp farming under existing laws and without requiring individual federal applications and licenses.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That N.C. Democratic Party urge legislators to recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity; to define industrial hemp in Federal law as non-psychoactive and genetically identifiable species of the genus Cannabis; to acknowledge that allowing and encouraging farmers to produce industrial hemp will improve the balance of trade by promoting domestic sources of industrial hemp; and to assist United States producers by removing barriers to State regulation of the commercial production of industrial hemp; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we urge the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to allow the State to regulate industrial hemp farming under existing state laws and regulations, or those to be passed, without requiring federal applications, licenses, or fees; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of State shall forward copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, and to each member of the state’s Congressional Delegation.
When politicians long considered opposed to marijuana law reform, such as those in Texas and North Carolina, openly endorse rational marijuana policy measures, you have to ask yourself: Just how many more dominos need to fall before our federal politicians finally wake up and end our country’s war on cannabis consumers? At lest one thing is certain, however, and that is all the momentum is behind reform and these recent victories for sensible marijuana laws are only just the beginning.
By Kellen Russoniello, student, George Washington University Law Center and NORML legal intern
[Update: A federal judge ruled on April 26, 2012 that Florida's drug testing law for unemployment benefits is unconstitutional.]
As several states are considering or implementing policies that require recipients of government benefits such as welfare to undergo drug tests, the federal government has shown approval for the same flawed rationale. Last week, President Obama signed into law an agreement reached by Congress which maintains the payroll tax cut and extends unemployment benefits, but also allows states to drug test people who seek unemployment benefits if they were fired from their previous job for using drugs or if they are seeking a job that would ordinarily require drug tests.
The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, H.R. 3630, was signed on February 22, 2012. Section 2105 amends the Social Security Act by allowing states to drug test applicants for unemployment benefits and deny those benefits in the case of a positive result.
What percentage of those applying would be forced to pee in a cup? Although the numbers are unclear, Republicans had cited a study claiming 84% of employers required new hires to pass a drug test. Initially, Republicans had pushed for drug testing all applicants, but this was opposed by Democrats. In order to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment, however, Democrats caved on the issue of drug testing.
A columnist for Time pointed out several flaws in this policy. First, a single failure of a drug test does not treat addiction or even determine if treatment is necessary. In fact, because marijuana can stay in the body’s system for extended periods of time, drug tests are likely to disqualify cannabis users even though it is one of the least addictive drugs. Second, people may shift their use to other drugs, such as K2 or Spice, which are more difficult to detect in a urine screen but may be more detrimental to the person’s health. Third, creating obstacles for the unemployed to get back on their feet may actually worsen drug use, as it fosters anger and resentment.
Further arguments against this policy include that although the government estimates drug use among unemployed to be about twice that of the employed population, the rates of drug use among those applying for welfare benefits were found to be equal to the general population in Michigan when it tried to implement a drug test law, and much less than the general population in Florida. Not to mention, this type of policy is most likely unconstitutional.
Hopefully states will come to their senses and not opt to implement this policy. If your state is one of the 23 states considering mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits, contact your legislators and tell them to oppose these unsound and unconstitutional policies.