Puff, Pass and Poll

Surveys say that public opinion is trending toward legislation

It seems marijuana polls are all the rage these days, given the way the winds of change swept through Washington, Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts in November, and they pop up all over the place when you search the Internet for, say, ideas for a medical marijuana column.

Just last week in Hawaii, which seems far away but is actually a neighboring state if you skip over Mexico, a group seeking legal reform released a survey (http://acluhawaii.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/dpagmarijuanapolicyfindings.pdf) highlighting public opinion there.

The Drug Policy Action Group, a pro-cannabis organization, had a research firm ask 603 locals about various aspects of cannabis law. Eighty-one percent approve of Hawaii's current medical program, under which patients can only grow their own, and 78 percent would like to see a dispensary system.

But even more encouraging was the finding that 57 percent of Hawaiians would vote for full legalization. Um, that's enough to win, people. In fact, only 40 percent opposed legalization. In politics, a 17 percent deficit is like a shit-ton of sand poured from a dump truck onto your chest. When you are that far behind in the polls, it's time to roll up the banners and put away the megaphone.

And these numbers are shifting toward legalization over time. The same survey in 2005 showed the opposite result—roughly 60 percent wanted cannabis illegal and 40 percent wanted it legal. So it seems it's only a matter of time before Hawaii follows Washington and Colorado to legalization. Get out the vote, Drug Policy Action Group.


The Big Picture

The national picture is similar. In a late-November Gallup poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/159152/americans-federal-gov-state-marijuana-laws.aspx), a somewhat-less-encouraging 48 percent want marijuana legalized. That's not enough to win, but it's better than the 35ish percent who wanted it legal in a 2005 Gallup poll. In 1969, the first year Gallup asked about marijuana, just 12 percent did. That's what I call progress.

Sixty-four percent in the Gallup poll said they want the feds to back off in states where cannabis is legal. Even among people who think marijuana should be illegal, 43 percent want the feds to respect state cannabis laws.

If you look at the trend, there has been a steady decline in the number of cannabis haters and a steady increase in the number of sensible Americans. Finally, in the past three years, more people favor legalization than not. The ages in the Gallup poll are telling. Sixty percent of respondents ages 18 to 29 said cannabis should be legal. But 61 percent in the 56-and-older group want marijuana illegal. That matters a lot, because older people vote and younger ones don't. Advantage, old folks who don't like cannabis.

Boo, old people.


There are other surveys showing various levels of support for loosening the marijuana law choke chain. In Indiana, 53 percent of residents recently told Ball State University pollsters that small amounts of marijuana should be treated like a traffic ticket. Only 40 percent opposed that idea. In New Hampshire, a private pollster found that 68 percent of folks there want legislators to pass a pending MMJ law. Fifty-two percent said a lawmaker's vote on the matter would sway their opinion of the lawmakers.

So, there are more and more hints every day, hints from research firms and professional pollsters (we know we can trust them. They're pollsters) and TV talking heads and news tickers, showing that America is getting closer and closer to ending prohibition. So put down your legal pads and step away from the Legislature, cannabis haters. The world is passing you by.

I'm down.

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