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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chronic City: New Poll Shows 52 Percent Nationwide Support Pot Legalization; Gov. Calls For Debate

Posted By and on Thu, May 7, 2009 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge ABOUT.COM
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Lately, new cracks appear in the facade of marijuana prohibition on an almost daily basis, and this week is certainly no exception.

On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, undoubtedly aware of recent polls that show a solid majority -- 56 percent -- of Californians supporting the legalization of marijuana, called for an open debate on the issue, while still maintaining he doesn't personally support such a policy.

Then on Wednesday, in what is apparently the first reputable national poll to ever show a majority supporting legalization, results were released for a Zogby poll commissioned by the conservative-leaning O'Leary Report which indicate 52 percent of Americans nationwide agreeing with the statement "it makes sense to tax and regulate" marijuana.

The Significance of Arnie

While

Schwarzenegger's Tuesday statement did receive a ton of press (it's

unusual for a sitting governor to speak this openly on prohibition), it

was really quite mild in terms of what was actually said.


"Well,

I think it's not time for [legalization], but I think it's time for a

debate," Schwarzenegger said, according to UPI. "I think all of those

ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it.

And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are

doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it

have on those countries?"


click to enlarge Ah, the '70s. Future Governor Schwarzenegger conducts a little marijuana research of his own as depicted in the documentary Pumping Iron.
  • Ah, the '70s. Future Governor Schwarzenegger conducts a little marijuana research of his own as depicted in the documentary Pumping Iron.

The

governor's statement, in view of polls showing majority support for pot

legalization in California, doesn't represent much political risk. In

fact, it's yet another example of politicians following rather than

leading in the debate over prohibition.


Arnie got in hot water in 2007 when he pronounced marijuana "a leaf, not a drug" during a GQ magazine interview. His spokespeople later claimed the governor was "joking."

Past

history has shown that on this subject, historically perceived as

fraught with political peril, public opinion usually precedes political

will by months or even years.


First National Majority For Legalization

But

the groundswell of support goes beyond California, as was shown by the

Zogby poll that was released just one day after Schwarzenegger's

statement to the press.


While

other recent polls, including ones taken by Gallup and ABC/Washington

Post, show marijuana legalization support in the mid-40s nationally,

the new Zogby numbers represent a significant milestone -- for the

first time ever, a national majority voicing support for the concept of

legalized pot.


The survey polled a sample of

3,937 voters nationwide, weighted to match the 2008 presidential

outcome -- 54 percent Obama supporters and 46 percent McCain voters.

Voters were asked: "Scarce law enforcement and prison resources, a

desire to neutralize drug cartels and the need for new sources of

revenue have resurrected the topic of legalizing marijuana. Proponents

say it makes sense to tax and regulate the drug while opponents say

that legalization would lead marijuana users to use other illegal

drugs. Would you favor or oppose the government's effort to legalize

marijuana?"


According to executive director

Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., "the

public is way ahead of the politicians on this." Kampia called

marijuana prohibition a "disastrously failed policy" and called public

support for legalization "strong and growing."

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Steve Elliott

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