Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Latest polling shows new high for support of marijuana legalization

Support-mj-pollThis new CBS News item, headlined "Support for marijuana legalization at all-time high," reports on a notable new CBS News poll about marijuana policy and reform.  Here are some details:

Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll.  Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use.

Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents.

Sixty-five percent think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs.  And only 23 percent think legalizing marijuana leads to an increase violent crime.

More generally on the topic of drug abuse, 69 percent think that should be treated as an addiction and mental health problem rather than a criminal offense.

The belief that pot should be legal has reached a new high in CBS News polls. Sixty-one percent of Americans now say the it should be, a five-point increase from a year ago. This sentiment has increased each year we’ve measured it since 2013, with the turning point to majority support coming in 2014. Back in 1979, this poll found just 27 percent saying it should be legal.

Those over 65 are the most opposed to legalization, but most under age 65 support it. And women are now as much in favor of legal marijuana as men are; in previous years they were less so.

Many states have legalized pot in some form, and most Americans don’t think the federal government should try to stop its sale and use in those states. Even among those who think marijuana should be illegal, only half think the federal government should get involved with the states.  This sentiment cuts across party lines: Majorities of Republicans (63 percent), Democrats (76 percent), and independents (72 percent) oppose the federal government trying to stop marijuana use in these states.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asserted a connection between marijuana and violent crime, but few Americans see it that way: just 23 percent think legalizing pot increases violent crime, while nearly as many think legal marijuana decreases it.

Generally, most Americans think habitual drug use should be treated as an addiction problem rather than a criminal offense.  Even most Americans who oppose legalizing marijuana think so. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree. Most Americans view marijuana in particular as safer than alcohol....

Support for legalization has risen among all age groups – particularly those under 55.  Americans under 35 show the strongest support.  Three in four adults between 18 and 34 support legal marijuana use, as do six in 10 Americans between 35 and 64.  Seniors remain the one age group for whom a majority still think marijuana use should be against the law.

I think especially interesting and notable are the breakdown in these numbers by party affiliation detailed here. Specifically, I find it quite interesting that, according to this poll, Republicans disfavor marijuana legalization by a slight margin (49% to 46%), they still overwhelming support medical marijuana access (87% to 11%) and significantly oppose the federal government taking action to stop marijuana sales in legalization states (63% to 33%). These numbers suggest that any strong Trump Administration push against state legalization efforts will likely engender some backlash among supporters as well as opponents of the President.

April 20, 2017 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

New survey finds quarter of all beer drinkers would switch to marijuana if legalized

The title of this post comes from this article on the results of a recent survey finding marijuana legalization could greatly affect brewers' bottom lines. The article begins:

American presidents and poets have long expressed their love of beer. Abraham Lincoln said he firmly believed the people could be depended upon in any national crisis, as long as they were given “the facts and beer.” Edgar Allen Poe wrote an ode to the stuff, and Charles Bukowski called brew his “continuous lover.”

 

Yet more than a quarter of American beer drinkers have switched to marijuana, or would switch if it was legally accessible, a new report finds. According to the Cannabiz Consumer Group (C2G), 27% of 40,000 people surveyed last year said that cannabis already does replace beer in their lives or could if the former were legalized.

 

Brewers, who in 2015 sold more than $105 billion worth of beer, stand to lose from this tradeoff. Specifically, about $2 billion annually, C2G predicts, noting that wine and spirits sales will be affected as well. Ultimately, the analysts project, cannabis will cost beer 7% of its market.

 

There’s some evidence to support the claim. A 2016 report from the investment research group Cowen and Company noted that cannabis consumption seems to be leading to lower beer sales in Oregon, Colorado, and Washington, the three states where weed is recreationally legal. The shift in consumption habits was apparently most dramatic in Denver, where people bought 6% less beer post-legalization. Analysts said too that higher-income consumers and men in general have been drinking less alcohol in the past five years, while weed use rose among those groups.

 

Also worth noting: Cannabis consumption has variety on its side. There are of course classic methods, like smoking flowers and hash, but enthusiasts can also take advantage of vaporizers, edibles, infused beverages, powders, tablets, creams, tinctures, and ointments, plus whatever’s in development.

 

More than 24 million Americans legally accessed weed in 2016, and the new C2G report argues that these figures will only grow. It projects that “legal cannabis penetration will settle at a level comparable to that of beer and wine and that a fully mature market would create a new $50 billion industry.” 

March 16, 2017 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Notable new poll numbers on support for marijuana reform in new Quinnipiac poll

This webpage provides the basics on the latest Quinnipiac University national poll looking at a range of political issues, including marijuana legalization. Here are the marijuana poll highlights:

Legalized Marijuana

Marijuana should be made legal in the U.S., voters say 59 - 36 percent.

Republicans are opposed 61 - 35 percent and voters over 65 years old are opposed 51 - 42 percent.  Every other party, gender, education, age and racial group listed supports legalized marijuana.

Voters support 93 - 6 percent legalized marijuana for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor.

The government should not enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use, voters say 71 - 23 percent.  Voters in every listed group support this position.

Especially interesting, particularly in light of yesterday's comments from White House press secretary Sean Spicer, is that only about 1/3 of all Republications in this poll voice support for "the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana."

February 24, 2017 in Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New poll shows strong and growing support for marijuana reform in the Lone Star State

TT-UT_polls_001_jpeg_800x1000_q100As reported in this local article, "opposition to legal marijuana is dropping in Texas, with fewer than one in five respondents to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll saying they are against legalization in any form."  Here is more on these poll results:

“We’ve seen this movie before on a couple of social issues,” said Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. He thinks the changes in Texas have more to do with shifting attitudes than with news of legalization in other states. “There’s a little bit of normalization. I don’t think this is a states-as-laboratories issue. Voters don’t care about that kind of stuff.”

Overall, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana for some use; 53 percent would go beyond legal medical marijuana to allow possession for any use, the poll found. Two years ago, 24 percent of Texans said no amount of marijuana should be legal for any use and another 34 percent said it should be allowed only for medical use.

Legal pot is more popular with Democrats than Republicans, with men than with women, and with younger Texans more than older ones. All of those subgroups support legalization of marijuana for medical or nonmedical use. Among Democrats, 62 percent would legalize pot in some amount for nonmedical use, while only 41 percent of Republicans agreed. Sixty percent of men would support legalization of non-medical marijuana, compared with 48 percent of women. Among 18-44 year olds, 55 percent would approve of non-medical marijuana and 51 percent of 45 to 64-year-olds agreed. But only 38 percent of Texans 65 and older agreed.

“The number of people who want to keep marijuana completely illegal decreased by seven points,” said poll co-director Jim Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “The commensurate shift is in Republicans saying small amounts should be legal, and those who said any amount should be legal increased by six points."

February 21, 2017 in Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Shouldn't a new "grassroots" Democratic Party led by Bernie Sanders get started by focusing on grass and roots?

In the video below from the Late Show, Bernie Sanders tells Stephen Colbert that the Democrats have to become a "grassroots" party. Because of the frustrating tendency in recent years the the Clinton wing of the Democratic party to promote and give power to older, less diverse and more "insider" officials and candidates than the Republican party, I have largely given up on the party and I am fairly apathetic about whether the party gets its act together sooner or later. But I am sure about one thing: if the Democratic party wants to become relevant very quickly and build as a true "grassroots" party, it ought to begin by focusing a lot on marijuana law and policy reform. Specifically, as the title of this post seeks to suggests, I think smart progressive politicians and community organizers ought to be laser focused, at least for the next six months if not longer, on (1) protecting the constitutional rights of citizens in states who are in strict and clear compliance with state marijuana laws (that is the "grass"), and (2) seeking to expand the reach and breadth of existing state marijuana reform laws, with a particular concern for allowing citizens a legal means for at least limited "home grow" (that is the roots).

I make this "pitch" largely driven by the fact that the only significant progressive policy issue that has gone to voters in the last two major election cycles and pretty consistently done much better with most voters (especially white male voters) than the leading Democratic candidate IN RED STATES has been marijuana reform. Specifically, in the 2014 election, in Alaska and Florida, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more than 50% of the vote even though, I believe, no democratic state-wide candidate in those two stated got more than 50% of the vote. Similarly, in the 2016 election, in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, a state marijuana reform proposal got significantly more support than the leading Democratic candidate. (The outlier here is Arizona, but notably exit polls show 43% of white men supported supported full legalization in the state, whereas only 36% of them supported Hillary Clinton; similarly 45% of whites without a college degree in Arizona supported full legalization, whereas only 35% of them supported Hillary Clinton.)

I could go on and on and on about why the "smart" approach for any political party circa Fall 2016 would be to focus on the bipartisan and wildly popular issue of medical marijuana reform. I will just close by noting that major medical or recreational marijuana reform is now the law of the land in just about big blue and red state except Texas. Specifically, recreational marijuana reform is now the law in "big states" like California (55 EV), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Colorado (9) Oregon (7), Nevada (6), while medical marijuana reform is the law of the land in Florida (29), New York (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Arizona (11), Connecticut (7), Arkansas (6). Notably, I have left out three "small" full legalization jurisdictions from this list (e.g., Alaska, Maine and Washing DC), but my list of bigger states now with major marijuana reform laws on their books after the 2016 election now just happens to add up to 271 electoral votes.

This electoral math and the marijuana map are among the reasons I remain quite bullish about the future of marijuana reform in the United States, and it is why I have been saying to any and everyone who would listen that the truly smart political candidates in BOTH major political parties are likely to be supportive of state-led marijuana reforms. But, given that the election last week highlighted that leading Democrats are not very good at getting to 270, I am not really all that optimistic that the Democratic party will wake up and smell the marijuana reform future rather than keep being focused on the prohibitionist past.

 

 

November 16, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Who voted to legalize marijuana in California?

Largely, the people who most needed a silver lining in last week's federal election results. The L.A. Times:

The initiative that legalized recreational use of marijuana in California found its strongest support among those who voted for Hillary Clinton for president, African Americans and voters ages 18 to 29, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times post-election poll.

 

Proposition 64 passed with 56% of the overall vote, but was supported by 68% of Clinton supporters and Democratic voters while it was opposed by 59% of those who voted for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to the poll conducted by SurveyMonkey.

 

A breakdown of the vote by race found the ballot measure drew support from 64% of African American voters, 58% of whites and 56% of Latino voters.

 

Though marijuana legalization was supported by 66% of voters ages 18 to 29, backing from those ages 50 to 64 was weaker at 49%.

November 14, 2016 in Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fascinating exit poll data on Arizona and California marijuana legalization support/opposition

Thanks to Tom Angell, Marijuana Majority founder and Twitter fiend, I now have seen that CNN has great exit poll data detailing and breaking down by a variety of demographics who voted for and against the marijuana reform initiative in Arizona (which failed) and California (which passed).

For those who follow marijuana reform polling, many of these demographic data points are not surprising: younger voters supported legalization in both states much more than older voters.  Democrats supported legalization in both states much more than Republicans.  But there are also some really interesting distinctive data points to be found, such as:

  • In Arizona, the majority of voters making less than $100K were supportive of legalization, with those making less than $50K being the most supportive (at 53%).  Among voters making more than $100K, a full 56% were against AZ legalization. 

  • In Arizona, a strong majority of Latino voters supported legalization (60%), but a strong majority of white voters opposed legalization (55%)

  • In California, the majority of voters at all income levels supported legalization, but those making less than $100K did so by a much larger percentage.

  • In California, the majority of unmarried voters strongly supported legalization (64%), but a majority of married voters opposed legalization (52%), but it is really just married women (against 55%) and not married men (for 52%) who move the married voters into a majority no position.

  • In California, the majority of voters saying no religion were huge supporters of legalization (76%), but protestants also were majority supporters (54%), but catholics were strongly opposed (61%).

November 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Data and Research, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"‘Cannabis Coattails’ and the challenges of polling in 2016"

VoteforMarijuana1The title of this post is the headline of this new piece by John Hudak at the Brookings FixGov website.  I recommend the piece is full for all political junkies, and here are excerpts: 

Much attention has been paid to the fact that several states are voting on marijuana initiatives this November. Five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—will vote on recreational legalization. Four more states—Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota—will have medical marijuana on their ballots. In many places, polling is tight and there are no sure bets on passage (not even in the Golden State).

The presence of these initiatives on ballots is important in and of itself, and passage would mean tremendous drug policy changes in any state that votes to approve its initiative, but they could also have significant ripple effects on other elements of this year’s election. How might the ballot initiatives affect voter turnout, the outcomes of other races, or the accuracy of polling in these states?...

From a policy perspective, differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are significant.  Medical markets are smaller, access to the product is more limited, and overall public support is higher for medical marijuana.  That broader support also makes it harder to identify concrete and significant differences of opinion across demographic groups.  For recreational marijuana, where support nationwide stands at around 60 percent divisions exist and they are significant.  We know that Democrats support legalization at higher rates than do Republicans (and about the same as Independents).  Men support legalization at higher rates than women.  We also know that the younger you are, the more likely you are to support legalization.  For instance, voters under the age of 30 support legalization at around 80 percent, while fewer than four-in-ten voters 65 and older support it....

For medical, it makes sense that differences are muted because overall support is higher.  What adds to that trend is the product’s broader consumer base.  While there are plenty of young medical marijuana patients in states that have passed reform, it is not necessarily a “young person” issue.  Patients who swear by the therapeutic benefits of marijuana span age groups and, in fact, many qualifying conditions disproportionately affect voters aged 30 and over — think MS, ALS, arthritis, cancer, etc. Similarly, you don’t have to be young to be convinced by a relative or friend that medical marijuana is helping them.  For voters of all ages, seeing is believing.

Having recreational marijuana on the ballot matters for more than just these initiatives in and of themselves.  Advocates put the initiatives on the ballot in even numbered years — especially presidential election years because turnout is significantly higher.  However, there is some evidence from 2012 that marijuana initiatives have coattails, too. Those coattails have meaningful effects up and down the ballot....  As I have written previously the 2012 initiatives in Colorado and Washington had unique impacts on turnout in those states....  Marijuana legalization impacted who turned out in 2012 and we should believe it may have similar effects in 2016.

It is no secret that when liberals turn out and younger voters turn out, it helps Democrats, ... [and] legalization initiatives have [had] a clear Democratic benefit.  Reform supporters and those behind ballot initiatives strategically time measures to happen during presidential years in order to capitalize on the increased turnout.  Yet, we know that the initiatives themselves can dramatically transform turnout and can have significant effects on other races as well.

With five recreational legalization initiatives on the ballot this year, what might it mean for the election generally?  First, there is a clear Democratic benefit to these initiatives.  In some states that may not matter, though. California and Massachusetts have ballot measures but they are not competitive in the presidential election and California’s Senate race is not competitive.  In Maine, Arizona, and Nevada, however, there are competitive presidential contests.  In the latter two, there are also competitive Senate races.  Even though none of the candidates have embraced legalization, Hillary Clinton and Democrats across those ballots may see a bump because of changes in turnout.  Democratic-leaning voters, who otherwise might have stayed home, could turn out to vote on marijuana reform.  Some may leave other parts of the ballot blank, but Democrats could see a meaningful benefit overall.  In a race that is close, a few thousand votes here or there could force an incumbent Republican Senator to pack up his office or shift a state’s electoral votes from red to blue....

If turnout among those under the age of 30 and among self-described liberals explodes in those five states [voting on reform initiatives], it could transform the outcome of many other races.  It may also mean that the actual effect of Cannabis Coattails could lead pollsters to underestimate both support for Democrats and the support for the initiatives themselves.  This really is not the fault of pollsters; it is a problem that stems from a lack of data. However, 2016 will provide additional data on the effect of marijuana initiatives on the composition of the electorate and the benefit for Democrats, so that the next time we face a similar situation — and 2020 will almost certainly have more legalization initiatives — pollsters will be better informed when designing poll samples and generating results.

None of this is to say that marijuana legalization initiatives will have a disruptive effect on the election. However, if Nevada’s Democratic Senate candidate, Catherine Cortez Masto, narrowly defeats Joe Heck, or if Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick outpaces John McCain, or if Hillary Clinton manages to hold the electoral vote awarded from Maine’s Second Congressional District, it may not be a hard-fought campaign that made the difference. Such wins might occur because cannabis has a coattail effect — and even candidates who oppose legalization may find that marijuana was the medicine their campaign needed.

November 1, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Disappointingly, New York Times editorial board tepidly notes how "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots"

Detail_of_a_new_york_times_advertisement_1895More than two years ago, as first reported here, this seemingly historic new New York Times editorial called for the legalization of marijuana under the bold headline "Repeal Prohibition, Again." At the time, I had thought this action by the Gray Lady's editorial board would mean that the marijuana reform movement would have a high-profile and powerful media champion and advocate.

Disappointingly (though perhaps not surprisingly), while the NY Times editorial board has been a a high-profile and powerful media voice on a number of other modern criminal justice reform issues, the Times editorial pages has been anything but bold (and has often just been silent) in the last two years on a wide range of notable state and federal marijuana reform issues. In 2016, for example, which has arguably been the most significant year (and after this election will be surely the most consequential year) in the modern history of the reform of state and federal marijuana laws (and which the New York Times has covered extensively as news), the NY Times editorial board until this week had put forward only one single editorial advocating for marijuana reforms.  (In telling contrast, the NY Times editorial board has had at least a dozen editorials advocating against forcefully capital punishment in 2016. )

 I would think that if the editorial board was still truly committed to its advocacy in 2014 that the US should "Repeal Prohibition, Again," that it would be saying a whole lot more on this topic during this critical year.  Against that backdrop, I am disappointed (but I suppose not too surprised) that this new New York Times editorial headlined "Marijuana Lights Up State Ballots" is marked more by reporting than by advocacy. Here are excerpts:

People in nine states, including California, Florida and Massachusetts, will vote Nov. 8 on ballot proposals permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana. These initiatives could give a big push to legalization, prompting the next president and Congress to overhaul the country’s failed drug laws. This is a big moment for what was a fringe movement a few years ago. A Gallup poll released on Wednesday showed 60 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up from 31 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1969.

The drive to end prohibition comes after decades in which marijuana laws led to millions of people being arrested and tens of thousands sent to prison, a vast majority of whom never committed any violent crimes. These policies have had a particularly devastating effect on minority communities. Federal and state governments have spent untold billions of dollars on enforcement, money that could have been much better spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment.

So far, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states permit medical use. A recent Cato Institute study found that the states that have legalized recreational use have so far had no meaningful uptick in the use of marijuana by teenagers, or other negative consequences predicted by opponents. For example, in Colorado, drug-related expulsions and suspensions from schools have gone down in recent years. There has been no spike in drug-related traffic accidents and fatalities in Colorado or Washington.

On Election Day, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will consider proposals to allow recreational use. In California, which approved medical use in 1996, polls show that the measure is likely to win. In Massachusetts, a recent poll showed 55 percent of likely voters supporting legalization. In Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota, residents will vote on medical marijuana. If Florida voters say yes, other Southern states that have been resistant to liberalizing drug laws could reconsider their prohibitions, too.

Passage of these proposals should increase pressure on the federal government to change how it treats marijuana. The Obama administration has chosen not to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states like Colorado and Washington. But this bizarre situation can’t last — even as more states legalize the drug, state-licensed marijuana businesses remain criminal operations under federal law. Even if they are not prosecuted by the federal government, this conflict in their legal status creates immense problems....

States are driving the change in marijuana policy because they see the damage created by draconian drug laws on communities, families and state budgets. It’s time the federal government acknowledged these costs and got out of the way of states adopting more rational laws.

When I saw the headline for this editorial --- which, as I suggested before, seems to be mostly a report of reality and fails to do much editorializing --- I at least expected it to mention and link to the New York Times' prior 2014 editorial calling for the US to "Repeal Prohibition, Again." I do not believe that the New York Times has changed its editorial stance on this front, but they seem now almost intent to make sure nobody remembers their bold advocacy two years ago.

Moreover, this "editorial," while seemingly eager to note that "negative consequences predicted by opponents" of reform have not materialized, entirely fails to note or highlights that all of the positive consequences predicted by supporters of marijuana reform have come to pass: huge new tax revenues are being collected, economic development has been considerable, arrest rates have gone down dramatically, and adults have safe and legal access to their preferred medicine or recreational drug. Simply saying at the end here that the federal government should get "out of the way of states adopting more rational laws" (which the Obama Administration has largely done, though Congress could and should do it more formally) is about the weakest tea support for reform I could imagine.

I suppose that when a paper's nickname is the "Gray Lady," I was foolish to expect or hope it would act or advocate like even a young smart conservative advocate (whom polls show support medical marijuana reform 10 to 1 and full marijuana reform 3 to 1). Still, I feel now as though the 2014 editorial headline really should have been "Repeal Prohibition, Again.... but do not expect the Gray Lady to really try to help make that happen anytime soon."

October 20, 2016 in Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

New Gallup poll finds record high support for marijuana legalization

Uu5e1ycj_kqf1dim_mvmewThis new Gallup item, headlined "Support for Legal Marijuana Use Up to 60% in U.S," details the results of its latest annual poll on marijuana opinion.  Here are the highlights:

With voters in several states deciding this fall whether to legalize the use of marijuana, public support for making it legal has reached 60% -- its highest level in Gallup's 47-year trend....

When Gallup first asked this question in 1969, 12% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana use.  In the late 1970s, support rose to 28% but began to retreat in the 1980s during the era of the "Just Say No" to drugs campaign.  Support stayed in the 25% range through 1995, but increased to 31% in 2000 and has continued climbing since then.

In 2013, support for legalization reached a majority for the first time after Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  Since then, a majority of Americans have continued to say they think the use of marijuana should be made legal.  Today's 60% is statistically similar to the previous high of 58% reached in 2013 and 2015, so it is unclear whether support has stabilized or is continuing to inch higher.

Support for legalizing marijuana use has increased among most subgroups in the past decade, but more so among certain groups than others.  For example, support is up 33 percentage points to 77% among adults aged 18 to 34, while it is up 16 points among adults aged 55 and older to 45%....

Additionally, support is up more among independents and Democrats than it is among Republicans, partly because of the older age skew of the last group.  Seventy percent of independents and 67% of Democrats support legal pot use, a major increase since the combined survey of 2003 and 2005 when 46% of independents and 38% of Democrats supported the idea.  While less than a majority of members in any political party backed legalizing marijuana in 2003 and 2005, Democrats and independents have fueled the recent nationwide surge in support. Republicans' support has doubled from more than a decade ago, yet only 42% of GOP members now support legal marijuana use.

If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the "Golden State" often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S. As more states legalize marijuana, the question of whether the drug should be legal may become when it will be legal.  The transformation in public attitudes about marijuana over the past half-century has mirrored the liberalization of public attitudes about gay rights and the same-sex-marriage movement, the latter of which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed legal last year. It is possible that it might take a Supreme Court case to settle this matter, too.

October 19, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Latest polling in Massachusetts shows notable uptick in support for full marijuana legalization ballot initiative

Ballot-question-shift-1000x579In part because all prominent political leaders throughout Massachusetts, both Democrats and Republicans, have come out strongly opposed to the state's marijuana reform initiative, I had come to expect that the state's ballot initiative would end up going down to defeat this fall.  But this new article, headlined "WBUR Poll: Support Increases For Legalizing Marijuana In Mass," suggests that politicians opposition to the initiative might be driving the public to support it more. Here are the details (with links from the original):

A new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs) finds support for the legalization of marijuana is up among likely Massachusetts voters.  Fifty-five percent of likely voters now say they favor allowing adults to use recreational marijuana, which is the subject of Question 4 on the November ballot.

When WBUR last polled on legalizing marijuana, last month, the gap was narrower, with 50 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. That 5-point gap has now grown to 15 points, with 55 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.  "This one follows a long string of polls which shows the marijuana question with the 'yes' side leading by somewhere between the mid-single digits and the mid-double digits," said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.

James Carroll, of Hopkinton, is among those who favor legalizing marijuana.  "People should have a choice in what they do and don't do," he said. "Liquor's legal. It didn't use to be legal."

Koczela says there's particularly broad support for letting people use marijuana at home.  "We found that almost everybody would be OK with the idea of people using marijuana in their homes — 84 percent said no, that that would not bother them," Koczela said. "When you ask, though, about using marijuana in public, only a third said that that would be OK with them."  And 64 percent say it would bother them.

"I do have a concern about people taking it and then driving," said Carol Yankauskas, of Falmouth.

Most oppose advertising for marijuana in their community. Fifty-one percent of likely voters say it would bother them if marijuana businesses advertised in public places in their community.  Susan Brownstein, of Westhampton, on the other hand, said it's fine.  "We advertise alcohol," she pointed out. "We don't want our children to drink. We advertise Cialis, for goodness's sake, during prime-time, when little kids are watching television. This is way more benign."

There is, however, support for stores selling marijuana.  Fifty-nine percent of respondents say it would not bother them if a store selling recreational marijuana opened in their community.

Nearly half the respondents (49 percent) say they have tried marijuana.  Of those who have tried it, an overwhelming majority, 72 percent, support legalization.

October 19, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

New Pew polling shows record high public support for recreational marijuana legalization

FT_16.10.11_marijuanaLegal_trendThe Pew Research Center has this new posting headlined "Support for marijuana legalization continues to rise," reporting on the results of its latest polling. Here are the particulars:

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use.

Young adults have disproportionately driven the shift toward public support of the drug, though support is rising among other generations as well. Millennials – those ages 18 to 35 in 2016 – are more than twice as likely to support legalization of marijuana as they were in 2006 (71% today, up from 34% in 2006), and are significantly more likely to support legalization than other generations.

Support for marijuana legalization has also increased among members of Generation X and Baby Boomers (ages 36-51 and 52-70 in 2016, respectively). More than half of Gen Xers (57%) support legalization, a considerable jump from just 21% in 1990. A majority of Boomers (56%) also support legalization, up from just 17% in 1990.

The Pew Research Center survey, conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 U.S. adults, also finds persistent partisan and ideological divides in public opinion on marijuana legalization. By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.

Republicans are internally divided over marijuana legalization. By a wide margin (63% to 35%), moderate and liberal Republicans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. By contrast, 62% of conservative Republicans oppose legalizing marijuana use, while just 33% favor it. The differences among Democrats are more modest. Liberal Democrats are 23 percentage points more likely than conservative and moderate Democrats to favor legalization (78% vs. 55%).

As past Pew Research Center surveys have found, Hispanics are less supportive of legalizing marijuana than are whites or blacks. Hispanics are divided – 49% say the use of marijuana should be illegal, while 46% say it should be legal. Identical majorities of whites and blacks (59% each) favor marijuana legalization.

I do not find the age-based and party-based polling particulars to be at all surprising, but I do find it quite notable and interesting that this poll suggests Latinos are slightly more likely to oppose than support marijuana legalization. I suspect that this finding could and would be even more interesting and telling if the Latino responses were broken down further by age, as I suspect older Latinos might continue to recall and fear the anti-Mexican/Latino biases that were integral to a whole lot of anti-marijuana policies and rhetoric until very recently.

The interesting Pew Center finding about Latino views on marijuana legalization also provides still further reasons to pay particular attention this election cycle to the marijuana reform ballot initiatives in states like Arizona and California and Florida. In addition to wondering whether exit polling in those states might confirm the likelihood of large blocks of Latino voters ending up on the "no" side of reforms, the traditionally different Latino origins that distinguish Latino population in different states might reveal still further deep insights into whether there are actually an array of distinct policy views on these issues among distinct groups of Latinos.

October 13, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Effective snapshot of marijuana reform debate and polling four weeks before (game-changing?) 2016 election

The Atlantic has this effective new piece that provide an astute "at this moment" perspective on marijuana reform developments and the coming election sure to impact them.  The piece is headlined "Marijuana's Moment: As many as five states could approve its recreational use this November, potentially signaling a point of no return for legalized pot," and it merits a full read.  Here are excerpts:

Recreational marijuana users can now legally light up a joint in states representing about 5 percent of the U.S. population. By the time Americans wake up on November 9, that percentage could be swelling to more than one-quarter.  Measures to legalize and regulate the sale of cannabis are on the ballot in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada, and recent polls show the “yes” vote is winning in all five states. Approval would mark the biggest advance yet for advocates in the decades-long fight over legalizing marijuana—one that they believe could ultimately force the federal government to end its prohibition of the drug.

“On November 8, you can safely say we’ve reached the tipping point if these go our way,” said Tom Angell, founder of the group Marijuana Majority.  The most important battleground is California, where advocates expect voters to approve personal use of pot six years after they defeated a similar measure.  Support for Proposition 64 is polling at nearly 60 percent, and the measure has drawn support from leading politicians and newspapers that opposed it in 2010, including Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.  The leading candidate for California’s open Senate seat, Kamala Harris, predicted Wednesday that voters would approve the law, although as the state’s attorney general she can’t formally take a position....

Beyond California, slimmer majorities of voters are backing full legalization in Massachusetts, Arizona, and Maine.  In Nevada, polls have been mixed, with one in September showing strong support for passage and a more recent survey suggesting voters are split.....

Legalization advocates are trying to replicate their successes from 2012 and 2014, when voters sanctioned recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington state, and Washington D.C.  But they are facing a better-organized opposition this year led by the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which has argued that the proposed laws are creating another “Big Tobacco,” but for marijuana.  They say these laws are industry-backed initiatives that allow companies to market pot to children just like cigarette companies did for decades.  “This is not about marijuana,” said Kevin Sabet, the president of SAM.  He travels around the country warning that ballot measures legalizing marijuana are dangerously lax and written by an industry that wants to hook kids on pot lollipops and other “cannabis candy.”

“This is about a small amount of people making a lot of money,” he said.  “This is not about personal liberty.”  That’s especially true, Sabet argued, in California, where medical marijuana is famously easy to obtain and where recreational use hasn’t been considered a felony for 40 years.  The drive to legalize, then, is all about business.

Sabet also disputes the idea that November will be a tipping point for marijuana legalization if the ballot measures in California and elsewhere prevail.  “This is a very long game,” he said.  “This is not going to be determined once and for all either this November or in November of 2018.”  Sabet said there is already a backlash building in local communities in states that have legalized pot, spurred by rising rates of marijuana use and a spike in traffic fatalities linked to stoned drivers.

Sabet was speaking to me from an airport after leading seven rallies over two days against the California ballot measure. “California is much closer than we’re hearing about,” he argued.  “It’s a coin flip in all of the states right now.”  As Sabet sees it, the burden is lower for opponents of a ballot initiative like marijuana legalization to convince voters to go their way.  “With ‘no,’ you just have to put a little bit of doubt in people’s minds, and they are movable,” he told me.  “The more we get our message across, the more people change their minds from ‘yes’ to ‘no.’”

That’s a dynamic that worries Angell, a 15-year veteran of the legalization fight.  He launched the Marijuana Majority in 2012 as a way of broadcasting the breadth of public support for the movement....   Though Marijuana Majority touts polls showing that 88 percent of voters nationwide support medical marijuana and 58 percent back full legalization, Angell is not as confident as [others] about a broad victory in November.   Support for ballot measures typically drops in the run-up to an election, he notes.  And while supporters of legal pot are outspending opponents, he worries about the movement’s version of an “October surprise” — a rumored move by the casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson to pour millions into last-minute ads against ballot measures in Nevada and Florida.  “I am very concerned about where we are in a number of these states right now,” Angell said. “It’s a little too close for comfort.”

In addition to the full legalization measures, voters in four other states — Florida, Montana, North Dakota, and Arkansas — are considering laws approving medical marijuana.  Supporters are confident about their chances in Florida but are less certain in Montana and North Dakota, where there has been little polling on the issue. They are most concerned about Arkansas because there are two medical-marijuana measures on the ballot — one supported by the legalization movement and another that is considerably narrower and more restrictive. “There’s a concern that voters will simply vote their favorite medical-marijuana measure and split the vote,” Angell said....

Another worry, Angell said, is complacency and overconfidence among marijuana advocates.  Contrary to Sabet’s claims, he complained that the marijuana industry was not contributing enough to the legalization drive — and indeed, the medical-marijuana community in California is reportedly divided over the ballot measure in part because small growers view it as a boon to big business, according to the Los Angeles Times.  The California Growers Association, for example, decided to stay neutral on the proposal. “There’s almost this sense that marijuana will legalize itself, that we’ve already won,” Angell said. If victories this year could put legalization on a nationwide path, losses would be a momentum killer. “A lot,” he admitted, “is riding on this.”

October 11, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A month out from the election, recreational marijuana reform ballot initiatives are ahead in the polls in all five states

6a00d8341bfae553ef01b7c888d83f970bFor a variety of reasons, I have been thinking that a majority but not all of the five state ballot initiatives coming to voters this November to legalize recreational marijuana were likely to pass.   However, this Washington Post article has a headline suggesting my forecast for recreational marijuana reform efforts might be unduly pessimistic: "Marijuana legalization is leading in every state where it’s on the ballot this November." Here are the interesting details:

Marijuana advocates are heading into the final weeks of the 2016 campaign with the wind at their backs as the latest polling shows legalization measures currently favored by voters in all five states where they're on the ballot. This is something of a reversal from just a month ago, when the most recent polling had shown voters wary of legalization measures in Massachusetts and Arizona. But the margins of support aren't huge in any state, meaning that the contests could still swing either way.

Polling ballot issues is a tricky business, all the more so with marijuana-related issues, where responses can be heavily influenced by particular question wording. So in the same state, different polls with different question wording can yield radically different results even if fielded at similar times. Those caveats aside, here's what the latest numbers show.

In Arizona, a late-August Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll of 784 registered voters found that 50 percent supported marijuana legalization, 40 percent opposed it, and 10 percent remain undecided. That result is sharply at odds with a July poll of likely voters showing that only 39 percent said they favored the measure.

In California, a post-debate SurveyUSA poll of 751 likely voters found that Proposition 64, which would legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana, is supported by 52 percent of the electorate and opposed by 41 percent, with 6 percent undecided. This is a lower margin than some other recent polls there, which have pegged support at 60 percent or more.

Across the country in Massachusetts, the marijuana legalization measure there enjoys 53 percent support among likely voters, according to a recent WBZ-UMASS Amherst poll of 700 likely voters. Forty percent oppose it, while another 7 percent are unsure. That's also a turnaround from an earlier poll of 900 registered voters, which found only 41 percent supported the measure.

Up the coast in Maine, a late September poll of 505 likely voters found 53 percent support for the legalization measure, 38 percent opposed to it and 10 percent undecided. This number has been fairly stable since the spring.

A poll fielded last week of 500 likely voters in Nevada found the legalization measure there leading with 57 percent support, compared to 33 percent opposing it. That number is sharply at odds with a Review-Journal survey of 800 likely voters, fielded at the exact same time, which found the legalization measure leading by just 1 percentage point, well within the margin of error....

Marijuana opponents, for their part, are optimistic about their chances. "If anything, the polls should give the opposition some comfort," said Kevin Sabet of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana. "If you are not at 60 percent at this stage in the game, it usually spells trouble for ballot initiatives." Sabet says his group is planning for a busy final month of the campaign season: "We plan to do much more in the next 30 days."

For a variety of reasons, I am disinclined to alter my thinking that a majority but not all of the five state ballot initiatives coming to voters this November to legalize recreational marijuana were likely to pass. (For those who want specifics, I am expecting California, Maine and Nevada voters to approve recreational, while I am expecting the Arizona and Massachusetts initiatives to not quite make it to 50%.) And especially because I expect to votes to be reasonable close on these issues in every state, the only thing I will predict with certainty is that I will be up into the wee hours of Election Night awaiting returns from all these states.

October 6, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Is recreational marijuana reform initiative likely to fail (badly) in Arizona?

AZThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this interesting new local article headlined "Foes of legalized recreational marijuana in Arizona have cash edge." Here are excerpts from the article: 

Foes of legalized recreational marijuana are building up a war chest in a bid to kill Proposition 205, apparently with a last-minute barrage of media. New reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office show that the anti-205 Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy has so far collected slightly more than $2 million.

That still leaves the group short of the nearly $3.2 million reported by the pro-205 Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. But the pro-205 forces already have burned through more than $3 million of that, much of it to get the measure on the ballot in the first place. The latest report shows that organization has less than $170,000 on hand.

By contrast, the campaign to kill the measure reported it has close to $1.4 million in the bank. That cash differential could prove crucial.

Various polls have come up with conflicting results. One from July had the measure failing with 52 percent of those questioned opposed. Another one released last month suggested the initiative had 50 percent support.

But the tide could be on the side of initiative foes, and not just because of the financial edge. Pollster Earl de Berge said that, generally speaking, when people are undecided or confused, they tend to vote “no” on ballot measures. And pollster Michael O’Neil, who did not conduct either survey, said that even if proponents really do have a 10-point lead, that’s not good news at this point in the election cycle. He said that’s probably a high point and it’s unlikely that number will improve between now and the election.

“I disagree with that,” responded Barrett Marson, spokesman for the legalization campaign. He said proponents are conducting a “vigorous” campaign and continuing to raise money. He conceded the anti-205 campaign has more cash on hand. But he said much of that is due to a $500,000 donation from Chandler-based Insys Corp., “a company that wants to sell synthetic marijuana and opposes legalization for business reasons.”...

The 2010 ballot measure that squeaked by allows individuals with certain medical conditions, a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued ID card to obtain up to 2½ ounces every two weeks from a state-licensed dispensary. Proposition 205 would allow any adult to have up to an ounce at a time, purchased through an expanded retail dispensary system but with a 15 percent tax added on. The measure also would spell out certain rights of marijuana users as to employment and child-custody cases.

Driving while impaired on marijuana would remain illegal. But unlike alcohol, where a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 is presumption of impairment, there is no such standard in Proposition 205. That would require prosecutors to prove in each case that the motorist was impaired.

Proponents have spent much of their resources to date on their claims that revenues from the tax would benefit education. Foes counter that similar promises were made to Colorado voters before they legalized recreational marijuana, but the funds have not materialized. But the prime message of the anti-205 forces has been that making marijuana more available to adults will lead to greater accessibility and use by minors. They also point out that the Arizona law specifically allows the sale of marijuana-laced candy bars, lollipops and other edibles that might be attractive to children.

Especially given that a medical marijuana initiative barely passed in Arizona in 2010, I have long assumed that the recreational reform initiative would be facing an uphill climb in the Grand Canyon state.  But, given the typical pattern of marijuana reform supporters having a (much) larger campaign war chest than opponents, I thought maybe folks in Arizona could move the election needle by extensively showcasing to undecided voters some of the positive consequences of full legalization in other states.  Yet this article suggests that the opponents of reform are going to have a lot more resources to tell voters about what they perceive to be the negative consequences of full legalization in other states. 

October 3, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 30, 2016

"Are Religious People Less Likely to Support Marijuana Legalization?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this interesting article reporting on some interesting new research.  Here are the details:

People who believe that the Bible should be taken as the literal word of God may be much less likely to support the legalization of marijuana than those who believe the Bible is a book of moral fables, according to a new study.

The study found that people who reported in national surveys that they believed that the Bible is God's word were 58 percent less likely to also say they support marijuana legalization, compared with people who thought the Bible is a book of fables and should not be taken literally. In addition, the more frequently that people attended religious services, the less likely they were to support marijuana legalization, the study found.

However, the extent to which people considered themselves to be religious was not a significant predictor of their views on marijuana legalization, said study author Daniel Krystosek, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Nevada. The results show that the relationship between people's religiousness and their views on marijuana legalization is complex, according to the study, published Sept. 3 in the International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice [available here].

In the study, Krystosek pooled data from three years of national surveys that included a total of about 3,800 people in the U.S.  The surveys were conducted in 2006, 2008 and 2010 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.  The surveys included questions about whether people thought that marijuana should be legal.  The surveys also asked how often people attended religious services, to what extent they considered themselves to be religious, how often they prayed, and whether they thought that the Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally or whether it is an ancient book of fables that should not be interpreted literally....

In the study, he also found that people with conservative political views were about 53 percent less likely to support marijuana legalization, compared with people with liberal views.  People who had moderate views were 37 percent less likely to support marijuana legalization, compared with people with liberal views....

The older the people in the study, the less likely they were to support marijuana legalization. "As people get older, they start families, and many parents do not want their children experimenting with drugs," Krystosek wrote in the study. "Therefore, they might oppose the legalization of marijuana."

September 30, 2016 in History of Marijuana Laws in the United States, Polling data and results, Religion, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Latest polling suggests Florida voters will approve medical marijuana constitutional amendment by needed super-majority this November

Footerlogo.fw_This local article from Florida, headlined "Poll: 73% of voters support medical marijuana ballot initiative," suggests that a needed super-majority of voters in the largest and most important state considering a medical marijuana initiative are supportive of reform.  Here are the basics (with links from the original): 

The 2016 medical marijuana ballot initiative has strong support among Floridians, according to a new poll.   A new poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute found 73 percent of voters would support the amendment. The survey found 22 percent were opposed to the ballot initiative....

The 2016 proposal allows people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

A similar amendment received 58 percent of the vote in 2014, just shy of the 60 percent needed to become law.

The new Florida Chamber Political Institute survey is in line with other recent polls, which showed 70 percent of Floridians supported the amendment.

Though many folks understandably and justifiably are looking at full legalization initiatives in California and a handful of others states in 2016 as the "big" marijuana reform story to watch this election cycle, I continue to think the likely impact of Floridians strongly supporting medical marijuana reform come November could be profound.

Florida is, for various reasons both political and practical, the most significant (not to mention the most populous) state in the southeast region. If Florida voters approve medical marijuana by a huge margin, Florida's elected officials at both the state and federal levels will likely be joining the ever-growing bandwagon of prominent politicians with a vested local interest in at least easing the tensions between state-level marijuana reforms and federal prohibition.

September 27, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Medical Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, September 26, 2016

New poll suggests Pine Tree state voters are likely to legalize recreation marijuana this November

Regulate-maine-logoThis new local article, headlined "Most Mainers favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, poll finds," suggests that marijuana reformers are poised to add Maine to the list of states that have approved recreational marijuana by initiative. Here are the basic details:

A majority of Maine voters favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a new Portland Press Herald poll showing a groundswell of support among residents under age 50 and among those living in southern or coastal areas. Roughly 53 percent of respondents in the newspaper’s statewide survey indicated they support a November ballot question that would add Maine to the growing list of states where marijuana is legal for adults. By comparison, 38 percent of participants opposed marijuana legalization – Question 1 on the November ballot – and 10 percent were undecided. More than 60 percent of poll participants reported having tried marijuana at some point in their lives....

Maine is one of five states – along with Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada and California – that will vote on marijuana legalization in November, making 2016 a pivotal year in the long-running policy debate over pot. Experts say the outcomes of those ballot initiatives – particularly California’s – could change the national trajectory of the legalization push. “It is a very big year,” said Sam Mendez, executive director of the Cannabis Law and Policy Project at the University of Washington School of Law. He noted that four other states will vote on medical marijuana ballot measures....

The legalization push in Maine is being led by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which succeeded in gathering more than the 61,123 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The referendum proposes allowing adults age 21 and older to use, possess or transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and sets up a licensing system for retail marijuana establishments.

Like roughly 20 states nationwide, Maine has already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana to make it a misdemeanor crime. Maine voters legalized use of medical marijuana in 1999 and have significantly expanded the program since, most recently by creating a regulated system of medical marijuana dispensaries and caregivers permitted to grow pot for clients.

The Press Herald poll shows that although the majority of respondents statewide support legalization, that support is by no means uniform throughout the large, rural state. Sixty-seven percent of Democrats supported legalization, along with 56 percent of independent voters. Republicans, meanwhile, opposed legalization by a margin of 54 percent to 35 percent, with 11 percent undecided.

Mainers also were divided geographically. Legalization drew support from 59 percent of the poll participants in Maine’s more southerly and politically liberal 1st Congressional District, yet only 46 percent of respondents in the more rural and conservative 2nd District were in favor of Question 1. Support was strongest in southern and coastal/Down East Maine – at 57 percent and 58 percent, respectively – but fell to 49 percent in central Maine and just 45 percent in the northern part of the state.

The largest divergences over pot come with age, however. Not surprisingly, legalization was most popular among voters in the 18- to 34-year-old group, 69 percent of whom said they supported allowing recreational use of the drug. A majority of those age 35 to 64 also supported legalization, but just 35 percent of respondents over age 65 were in favor of Question 1....

The Press Herald survey underscored that marijuana is widely used, however. Roughly 62 percent of respondents acknowledged at least “trying” marijuana at some point in their lives, with men more likely than women to have dabbled with pot. Nearly three-quarters of voters age 34 and under reported having tried marijuana. That percentage drops to 64 percent among voters aged 35 to 49 but jumps back up to 72 percent for those between the ages of 59 and 64 – potentially a reflection of the drug’s popularity during the late 1960s and the 1970s.

There have been relatively few publicly released polls on marijuana legalization in Maine. The 53 percent support in the Press Herald poll is similar to the 55 percent support identified in a March poll of statewide voters by Critical Insights in Portland. Yet support for legalization was at 65 percent in a spring 2015 poll conducted by Critical Insights, raising the prospect that some voters are taking a closer look at the issue now that the campaign is in full gear.

September 26, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2016

California's largest newspapers split on state's recreational marijuana use initiative

Last week, several of California’s largest newspapers weighed in on Proposition 64, the state’s November ballot initiative—also known as the Adult Use Imagesof Marijuana Act—that would legalize recreational marijuana use. The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle announced support for it. The Times offered the more comprehensive endorsement of the two, writing in part:

In November, Californians will again consider whether to legalize pot, this time with Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act. Voters will have to ask themselves whether the time has come to treat marijuana less like heroin and more like alcohol — as a regulated but acceptable product for adult use. Do the risks of legalization outweigh the costs of prohibition? Does Proposition 64 strike the right balance between allowing adult Californians to make their own recreational choices and protecting their health and safety? Does the measure put cannabis-industry profits ahead of public health? What does it mean that marijuana will be legal under California law but still illegal under federal law? 

 

On balance, the proposition deserves a “yes” vote. It is ultimately better for public health, for law and order and for society if marijuana is a legal, regulated and controlled product for adults. Proposition 64 — while not perfect — offers a logical, pragmatic approach to legalization that also would give lawmakers and regulators the flexibility to change the law to address the inevitable unintended consequences...

 

The Times urges a “yes” vote. 

The Times and The Chronicle agreed on most of the major points. Marijuana prohibition has burdened more than it has benefited society. Marijuana is already abundantly available in California; cities and municipalities can restrict and even ban marijuana businesses; and, the legislature retains the authority to amend the law. The 2010 legalization initiative was silly, but Proposition 64 fixes most of the previous attempt's shortcomings.

Conversely, The Sacramento Bee and The Fresno Bee (both owned by The McClatchy Group) came out against Proposition 64. The two editorials are strikingly similar—at times they are indeed identical. They claim the aim of legalization advocates is not social justice reform or public health, but big business. Both lament that there is no currently accepted device available to law enforcement to help them detect drivers impaired by marijuana use (although two devices are currently being field-tested). Both worry recreational use will lead to greater exposure of youths to the drug. Both are cynical about the motives of Proposition 64’s advocates, and both conclude with this warning:

[O]nce approved, laws adopted by initiative are all but impossible to roll back without going back to the electorate. For all the spin by backers about how carefully they wrote Proposition 64, the initiative is not fully baked. Or maybe it’s cooked just right for the entrepreneurs promoting it.*

While it's unclear whether old media sources actually retain enough gravitas to persuade readers, the Bees better hope they do because opposition efforts appear to have been futile thus far. Polls continue to show Californians heavily favor legalizing recreational marijuana use. Last week, the USC Dornsife/LATimes poll showed 58 percent of California voters back Proposition 64. Notably, public opposition to legalization actually appears to have declined slightly. In May, a Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 40 percent of Californians opposed the measure. The most recent numbers show only 34 percent of Californians currently expect to vote against it; and, a California Counts poll released earlier this month found just 26 percent of respondents felt that way.

Regardless of the strength of conclusions that can be drawn from these numbers, it’s clear that legalization opponents have failed to gain much traction with Californians. Perhaps the problem stems from an unwillingness to acknowledge the current reality—that, in terms of access to marijuana, the drug is already de facto legal in California. As The Times acknowledges:

The reality is that California has already, essentially, legalized marijuana. Virtually any adult can get a medical marijuana recommendation and buy pot products legally at a dispensary. And those who can’t be bothered to fake a headache or back pain can buy it on the black market without fear of going to jail. 

 

Proposition 64 would end the need for such ruses and deal a blow to the illegal market, which thrives on prohibition.

And The Chronicle:

Any serious discussion of marijuana legalization must begin with the acknowledgment of reality: Prohibition is not working. The drug is popular and readily available for recreational use, either through medical marijuana dispensaries, where 18-year-olds can purchase cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation, often after a nudge-and-a-wink; or a black market that continues to thrive.

The preceding statements certainly comport with my understanding of the current condition of the marijuana market in California.

Earlier this year, I met a doctor friend for dinner who regularly moonlights for a company that connects potential medical marijuana patients with prescribers. I asked her if she had ever rejected someone seeking a medical marijuana use license. “Of course!” she laughed. But, still chuckling, she added that its exceedingly rare and only happens when patients do not understand what constitutes a qualifying condition under California’s lax medical marijuana statute. When I asked her for an example, she recounted a recent high school graduate who had sought a medical marijuana license for the ankle he had twisted at a recent pick-up soccer match. Tellingly, however, she was not upset that he had tried to get a card. Rather, she was miffed mostly because the young man had not taken the time to “consult the internet” before making the appointment. If he had, she added facetiously, he would have realized that he suffers from recurring migraines. 

Put simply, if they hope to move the needle in their direction, marijuana legalization opponents must not only persuade voters that marijuana legalization will result in future societal harm; but also they must convince the millions of California voters living in marijuana-friendly municipalities that their communities are already suffering from it. With a dearth of data to support that view, convincing voters to change their minds could be a tall order. 

The San Diego Union Tribune has yet to take a position on Proposition 64, and The Orange County Register so far has declined to either support or oppose it. Earlier this year, both The San Jose Mercury News and The East Bay Times came out in support of the measure.

Here are several recent related posts on marijuana policy reform in California:

* In the last sentence The Fresno Bee describes the backers of Proposition 64 as “guys and gals” rather than “entrepreneurs.” 

September 19, 2016 in Initiative reforms in states, Polling data and results, Recreational Marijuana Commentary and Debate, Recreational Marijuana State Laws and Reforms | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Can 2016 marijuana ballot initiatives ignite a fire under millennial voters?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this MarketWatch article that highlights why I think marijuana ballot initiatives (especially in swing states like Florida and Nevada and Arizona) are an important sleeper story this big election year.  Here is how the article starts:

Millennial and youth voters in America care more than any other generation about the legalization of marijuana, but will that be enough to drive them to the polls for November’s pivotal election?

There are as many as 13 pending ballot initiatives to legalize either adult recreational marijuana use or medical marijuana, with initiatives in nine states having already qualified to be on the ballot in November. Voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Oklahoma will vote to legalize medical marijuana, while Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will decide whether to regulate marijuana like alcohol.

The cannabis industry in the U.S. has arguably never faced a more monumental decision on its future and it’s a decision America’s younger generations care about. According to the Pew Research Center, 63% of Republican millennials, and 77% of their Democratic-leaning counterparts, support the legalization of marijuana.  And while Democrats across generations are largely in favor of legalization, 47% of Republican gen. Xers, 38% of baby boomers and 17% of the silent generation support the cause.

For a better chance for the nine ballot initiatives to pass in November, millennial voters will need to turn out in droves, said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Increased turnout from young voters could also have a substantial impact on the presidential election. According to a July Pew post, Hillary Clinton holds a 60% to 30% advantage over Donald Trump among young voters — ages 18 to 29.  Clinton’s lead falls to 47% when Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson — who just edges Trump among young voters — is added to the mix.

Historically, about half of all eligible millennial voters head to the polls during presidential elections: 46% in 2004, 50% in 2008 and 46% in 2012, according to Pew. In Colorado in 2012, however, the voter turnout rate among millennials was more than 10 percentage points higher than the national average. More than 55% of Colorado’s eligible youth voted, and the state’s marijuana ballot measure — full legalization — passed.

September 15, 2016 in Campaigns, elections and public officials concerning reforms, Initiative reforms in states, Political perspective on reforms, Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink | Comments (0)