By Phillip Smith
Polls from two more states this week show an increasing acceptance of the need to reform marijuana laws. In a Florida poll, Sunshine State voters said they were ready to back medical marijuana, while in a Maryland poll, Old Line State voters said they were ready to decriminalize and/or legalize the weed.
Voters in the two states are joining a growing cavalcade of marijuana reform supporters in state polls, some of them in places where the support seemed unlikely. Just in the month of September, different polls showed majority support for marijuana legalization in Louisiana, majority support for decriminalization and a near majority (47%) for legalization in Michigan, majority support for decriminalization and medical marijuana in Oklahoma, and majority support for legalization in California.
In Florida, where the Right to Medical Marijuana Initiativesignature-gathering campaign is underway, a Public Policy Polling survey found support for a medical marijuana ballot measure at 62%, with only 26% opposed and 12% undecided.
That poll found strong support for medical marijuana among Democrats (68%) and independents (74%). And while there wasn't majority support among Republicans, more Republicans supported medical marijuana (46%) than opposed it (41%).
In Maryland, a Public Policy Polling survey found nearly three-quarters (72%) support for medical marijuana, more than two-thirds (68%) for decriminalization, and a slight majority (53%) for legalization. (The legalization question asked: "Would you support or oppose changing Maryland law to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and over, and regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol?")
The poll was commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and the ACLU of Maryland, both of which have been working with the state legislature in Annapolis to loosen pot penalties. This year, the legislature approved a medical marijuana program, but rejected efforts to decriminalize or legalize marijuana.
"Most Maryland voters recognize that marijuana prohibition has failed and believe it is time to adopt a more sensible approach," said Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for MPP. "By regulating marijuana like alcohol we can take marijuana sales out of the underground market and put them behind the counters of legitimate, tax-paying businesses. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it is time to treat it that way."
"Our current marijuana prohibition policies are grossly ineffective," said Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland. "It's time to take a commonsense approach to public safety and criminal justice. We should not be wasting resources arresting people simply for possessing marijuana. Enforcement of these misguided marijuana laws is having a disproportionate and detrimental impact on communities of color. A majority of voters agree it is time for a change."
Elected officials are supposed to lead, but when it comes to marijuana law reform, it is becoming increasingly clear that the public is going to have to lead the elected officials by their noses.