by Phillip Smith
Two polls released late last week show strong support for marijuana legalization in Colorado and Massachusetts. Both states have already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot, and activists in both states are working toward legalization. In Colorado, an effort to put a legalization initiative on the ballot next year is well underway, while in Massachusetts, this year's emphasis is on legalizing medical marijuana.
In Massachusetts, a DAPA Research poll conducted for the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition/NORML found that 58% support legalizing marijuana and regulating it like other agricultural commodities with sales prohibited to underage persons. The figure was 69% for Democrats, 44% for Republicans, and 54% for "other."
Support for legalization rose to 62% when respondents were asked if a proposed law would tax and regulate the cultivation and distribution of marijuana to adults like the state currently regulates alcohol. The figure was 70% for Democrats, 56% for Republicans, and 60% for "other."
The poll also found that 54% opposed the federal government disregarding state laws in states that legalize marijuana, while only 35% supported the federal government disregarding state law.
The Massachusetts poll was conducted in November. It surveyed 600 Massachusetts voters by telephone and has a margin of error of +/-4%.
"The data strongly suggests that Massachusetts voters are more ready than voters in any other state to end prohibition and establish reasonable regulation of cannabis cultivation and commerce for all purposes," said Steven Epstein, a founder and currently an officer of MassCann/NORML. "The data also establishes that if the legislature does not enact a law allowing medical use of marijuana this session the voters will overwhelmingly, perhaps 80%+, approve the voter initiative for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana at the ballot box in November."
"Legalization is essential to ending crime created by the prohibition of cannabis," said Cara Crabb-Burnham, a member of MassCann/NORML’s board of directors. "It is important to recognize legal vendors will card customers and keep it out of the hands of children."
In Colorado, a Public Policy Polling survey asked "in general, do you think marijuana usage should be legal or illegal," and legal won by a margin of 49% to 40%. A similar question about medical marijuana showed support at 68%, with only 25% saying it should be illegal. No cross tabs were available for the poll.
The poll surveyed 793 Colorado voters from December 1 to 4. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.5%. It was conducted via automated telephone interview.
The poll sends a mixed message for Colorado legalizers. It demonstrates that marijuana legalization is more popular than pot prohibition in the Rocky Mountain State, but not quite popular enough to win at the polls next year. The conventional wisdom among initiative experts is that they should be polling at 60% or above before the campaign begins.But Art Way, Colorado manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Colorado Independent said he had seen polls showing stronger support than this one and that it was early yet. "I think it will go higher as the campaign heats up," he said.