The Trend Is In Marijuana’s Favor

The SF Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli has a very good article today examining the public support for marijuana legalization. Although the subheading reads “Bid to legalize pot is counter to U.S. trend” the article itself shows the trend favors legalization, partly because suburbanites have come around:

The suburban “soccer moms” who are likely voters have told pollsters that the measure, which would give local governments the authority to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis to adults 21 or older, would provide a safer way for their adult children to buy pot.

“One of the scary things to some people is that their kids may be buying it from someone dangerous,” said Ruth Bernstein, a pollster with EMC Research, an Oakland firm that has been doing polling and focus groups on behalf of the measure’s proponents.

This jibes with the current on-the-ground reality in California, where the battles over the present quasi-legal status of marijuana are largely taking place in suburbs and smaller towns. Here on the Monterey Peninsula there’s a debate over whether to authorize operation of “clubs” that are permitted by the state to sell marijuana to patients with a prescription. And Richard Lee’s initiative to legalize pot includes a local option that will let local governments refuse to expand the sale and use of pot beyond the state minimums that the initiative would create.

The shift of suburbanites would seem to indicate the trend favors legalization. So too does the timeline the article offered:

Legalization (with some regulation)

1986: Oregon, 24 percent. Defeated.

2000: Alaska, 41 percent. Defeated.

2002: Nevada, 39 percent. Defeated.

2004: Alaska, 44 percent. Defeated.

2006: Nevada, 44 percent. Defeated.

Removal of all penalties (without taxation, regulation)

1972: California, 34 percent. Defeated.

2006: Colorado, 41 percent. Defeated.


2008: Massachusetts, 65 percent. Approved.

Those numbers certainly look like a trend to me.

The final item from the article that would seem to give credence to the notion that the trend favors legalization is the opposition’s intellectually bankrupt arguments:

“The legalizers have yet to explain what the social betterment is by legalizing another mind-altering substance,” said John Lovell, a lobbyist for law enforcement agencies, including the California Peace Officers’ Association, that are opposed to legalization. “They’re smoking something if they think soccer moms are going to go their way.”

In fact, the legalizers have a battery of effective arguments, from the benefit to the state budget, the reduction of the prison population, and the legalization of a practice that is extremely widespread throughout this state. Pot has become a mainstream drug, used by a wide variety of people, and is largely socially accepted in this state, including in the suburbs. The local option in the initiative means that those suburbs that don’t want to become a new “Oaksterdam” don’t have to, but their residents who prefer to smoke in the privacy of their homes will have greater legal protection, and their stressed and stretched police departments won’t have to waste time on the issue.

You’d assume that the lobbyist for the CPOA would understand the need to let the police focus on other crimes, especially when police budgets are facing cuts. Instead the people of California are going to have to make the sensible decision on their own this November.

2 thoughts on “The Trend Is In Marijuana’s Favor”

  1. I’d add a few additional arguments for legalizing marijuana (and other drugs):

    1.  Drastically reduce inner-city gang activity.  At their core, gangs are simply drug distribution networks.  Gang violence is the natural off-shoot of gang efforts to enforce contracts that aren’t enforeceable through the courts.  If we decriminalize drugs the gangs will disappear.

    2.  Restore the quality of life to inner-cities.  By eleiminating the funding for gangs, the overall quality of life in the inner-cities would improve.  Inner-city schools would be safer, inner-city children would opt to study rather than work for the local drug cartel, safety would improve and traditional business enterprises would return.

    3.  Reduce drug overdoses.  The number of drug overdose cases would go down as the quality of recreational drugs is standardized and drug dealers are held accountable for the quality of their product.

    4.  Reduce disease transmission.  There would be less disease transmission as sterile needles become available.

    5.  Improve healthcare options.  More pharmaceutical options could be made available to treat less common ailments.  For example, many drugs are available in other countries that aren’t available in the US.  Why?  Because the FDA approval process costs many millions of dollars.

    6.  Reduced police, prison and interdiction costs.

    7.  Stabilize Central America.  Mexico and other central american and south american countries would become more stable.  In particular, marijuana accounts for more than half of the revenues of Mexican cartels.  There were 6,000 drug related murders in Mexico last year.  In Juarez, the city estimates that the drug war has created 7,000 orphans and displaced 100,000 people.  If we eliminate the black market in drugs this entire problem would go away — almost immediately.

    8.  Possibly reduce drug use.  Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001.  A recent Cato Institute study indicates drug use among the yound is slightly LOWER.  In addition, they’ve also enjoyed many of the benefits listed above.  Since its inception, the drug decriminalization policy has become more popular in Portugal.

    Finally, I want to make clear that I strongly oppose drug use.  I’ve seen the horrible damage drugs can do to people.  However, it appears the policies we’ve implemented to address the problem have made society far worse.  It’s time to make things better.

  2. I recently compared polling from California in 1996, when I was managing the medical marijuana initiative campaign (Prop. 215), with some private polls taken in 2009. I can characterize the results this way: WOW.

    The changes are remarkable over 13-14 years. Some of it is from older, more conservative voters passing on. But a lot of it is change in individual opinions over time, no doubt influenced by the experience with medical marijuana.

    Among likely Democratic voters, support swung +20% over this period to a substantial majority. It’s not even close. And I tend to agree with some of the proponents of this measure who say opinions don’t change much on the fundamental issues. This will be an interesting year.

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