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opinion

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director May 17, 2013

    Reason-Rupe has just released new polling data that revealed only a minuscule percentage of Americans believe that marijuana use and possession should result in jail time. When asked which approach they thought the government and law enforcement should take toward someone found smoking marijuana or in possession of a small amount of marijuana, only 6% responded that they should be sent to jail. 35% of respondents said that these individuals shouldn’t be punished at all, 32% responded they should pay a fine, and 20% said they should have to attended substance abuse courses.

    The survey also found that 52% of Americans favor federal legislation that would prevent the federal government from prosecuting people who grow, possess, or sell marijuana in the states that have legalized it. Recently, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) introduced the “Respect State Marijuana Laws Act” which would do exactly that. You can click here to easily contact your Representative and urge him or her to support this measure.

    Full results of this poll are available here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 26, 2012

    In the wake of the historic votes for marijuana law reform on November 6th, there has been a renewed focus on the topic and a shift in tone amongst the mainstream media. While previously, many outlets have either covered our efforts with a wink and a nod (or didn’t cover them at all), now that two states have called for the end of marijuana prohibition, reporters are rushing to cover the story. Along the way it seems they are also getting a crash course education in the concepts of civil liberties, federalism, and the disasters of our country’s prohibition on cannabis. Many are beginning to wake up to the reality that we have long identified: cannabis prohibition is a failed policy that has destructive effects on our society and these effects can be remedied by legalization and regulation.

    Look no further for a sign of the changing times than editorials featured this weekend by two of the United States’ largest newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both papers featured columns from their staff opining in favor of marijuana law reform. It seems the days of traditionally conservative editorial boards writing against cannabis law reforms may be coming to an end.

    There is a seismic shift happening in the national consciousness on marijuana policy in response to the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington, we are winning new converts by the day and those previously afraid to speak out are now doing so with passion and vigor. This recent influx of mainstream media outlets jumping on board with reform is just the beginning of the avalanche of change that is to come.

    The New York Times by Timothy Egan, NYT Opinion Writer:

    Give Pot a Chance

    For what stands between ending this absurd front in the dead-ender war on drugs and the status quo is the federal government. It could intervene, citing the supremacy of federal law that still classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug.

    But it shouldn’t. Social revolutions in a democracy, especially ones that begin with voters, should not be lightly dismissed. Forget all the lame jokes about Cheetos and Cheech and Chong. In the two-and-a-half weeks since a pair of progressive Western states sent a message that arresting 853,000 people a year for marijuana offenses is an insult to a country built on individual freedom, a whiff of positive, even monumental change is in the air.

    …there remains the big question of how President Obama will handle the cannabis spring. So far, he and Attorney General Eric Holder have been silent. I take that as a good sign, and certainly a departure from the hard-line position they took when California voters were considering legalization a few years ago.

    Source

    The Washington Post by Washington Post Editorial Board:

    Marijuana’s Foot in the Door

    …Or the Justice Department could keep its hands off, perhaps continuing the approach the feds have largely taken for some time — focusing scarce resources on major violators, such as big growers that might serve multi-state markets, cultivators using public lands or dispensaries near schools. The last option is clearly best.

    But it’s unrealistic and unwise to expect federal officials to pick up the slack left by state law- enforcement officers who used to enforce marijuana prohibitions against pot users and small-time growers. Unrealistic, because it would require lots more resources. Unwise, because filling prisons with users, each given a criminal stain on his or her record, has long been irrational. For the latter reason, we favor decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, assessing civil fines instead of locking people up.

    Also, for that reason and others, the Justice Department should hold its fire on a lawsuit challenging Colorado and Washington’s decision to behave more leniently. And state officials involved in good-faith efforts to regulate marijuana production and distribution according to state laws should be explicitly excused from federal targeting.

    Source

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director November 14, 2012

    Polling data released Tuesday by Rasmussen Reports shows the American public is now evenly split on the issue of marijuana legalization, with 45% in support, 45% opposed, and 10% undecided. This is up 5 points from the previous time Rasmussen polled this language in 2009, when the issue received just 40% support to 46% opposition.

    However, an overwhelming amount believe the issue or marijuana legalization should be left to state governments. 60% of respondents replied that it was best left to the states, while only 27% thought it was an issue for the federal government.

    Rasmussen also found that a minuscule 7% of Americans think the United States is winning the war on drugs, 82% stated the country is not winning, and 12% are not sure.

    This poll was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from November 9th-10th and surveyed 1,000 Adults nationwide.

    Also released this week was a new ABC/Post poll that had support for legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana at 48% support to 50% opposition amongst all adults.

    Both of these polls show similar trends in support for marijuana legalization. Support for these policies is clearly still being held down by the 65+ demographic, who, in each survey, were the only age group to not have plurality support for legalization. In the Rasmussen poll, 49% of those ages 18-39 supported legalization, along with 48% of those 40-64. Support plummets amongst the 65+ crowd, who only support legalization by 26%. Similar trends were seen in the Post/ABC poll, where the 65+ age group were the only group to fall below 50% support for marijuana legalization, they instead opposed it by 67%.

    These surveys also highlight the still present gender gap in legalization support. In both surveys women’s support trailed behind men, by 12 points in the Rasmussen poll and by 9 points in the Post/ABC poll.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 21, 2012

    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.

    Source: Montana Republican Party 2012 Platform

    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:

    Medical Marijuana

    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.

    Source: Montana Democratic Party 2012 Platform

    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.