Colorado marijuana backers say new national poll bodes well for Amendment 64

By Scot Kersgaard
The Colorado IndependentMay 25, 2012
By a margin of 56 to 36 percent, a majority of American voters now favor legalizing marijuana, according to a Rasmussen poll of 1,000 adults conducted earlier this month,

While support for legalization has been building in the United States for some time, this is the first credible poll to show such a wide margin.

"There is more nationwide support for regulating marijuana like alcohol than ever before. This news bodes well for Amendment 64, especially since Colorado is among the states with the most support for ending marijuana prohibition," said Mason Tvert in a prepared statement. Tvert is the director of the Amendment 64 campaign.

A pro marijuana legalization billboard in Denver (Scot Kersgaard photo).

"People are fed up with the current system. It forces marijuana into the underground market where it cannot be controlled, making it far more accessible to teens. Prohibition also makes adults criminals simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol.

"Coloradans are ready to move beyond the wasteful and ineffective policy of marijuana prohibition, and this November they have the opportunity to do just that by regulating marijuana like alcohol. In doing so, it can set an example for the rest of the nation," Tvert concluded.

Nationally, marijuana legalization advocates were as pleased with the poll results as you might expect.

"Polling now consistently shows that more voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana than support continuing a failed prohibition approach. Yet far too many politicians continue to act as if marijuana policy reform is some dangerous third rail they dare not touch, said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop and the executive director of LEAP--Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "If the trends in public opinion continue in the direction they are going, the day is not far away when supporting a prohibition system that causes so much crime, violence and corruption is going to be seen as a serious political liability for those seeking support from younger and independent voters. Savvy forward-looking politicians are already beginning to see which way the wind is blowing."

“Marijuana prohibition is counterproductive to the health and public safety of our communities. It fuels a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wastes billions of dollars in scarce law enforcement resources, and makes criminals out of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens,” said Art Way, Colorado drug policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance.

“What often gets overlooked are the collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction and how blanket prohibition is actually in opposition to public health and safety. We also intend to address our medical marijuana system, the impact prohibition has on immigration policies and the public health costs of marijuana compared to alcohol and tobacco.”

Surveys have shown that marijuana usage is roughly equal among ethnic groups, but minorities face arrest far more often than do whites. Black people in Denver make up approximately 10 percent of the total population, yet account for more than 30 percent of the arrests for marijuana possession, says LEAP.

“Once someone is convicted of even a minor possession offense, they are subject to a system of legal discrimination that makes it difficult or impossible to secure housing, employment, public assistance, federal student aid for higher education, or even a basic driver's license,” Way said.

“Absent a conviction, the collateral consequences of a mere arrest can include immeasurable stigma and humiliation, the financial burden of posting bail and hiring a lawyer, and lost hours at work or school. The toll is quite significant and unnecessarily harsh.”

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