With a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana set to appear on California’s November ballot, a recent poll shows that most Americans still oppose legalizing the drug.
The Associated Press-CNBC poll, released on Apr. 20, showed that 55 percent of Americans oppose legalizing pot, while 33 percent favor legalization.
Those in favor of legalization cite other polls and problematic question phrasing as evidence that a greater number of Americans actually support legalizing marijuana.
Mike Meno, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that other recent polls released by CBS and Gallup show a higher number – approximately 45 percent – favor legalization.
Meno also said that the way the question was phrased played a role in the lower AP-CNBC number.
“Thirty-three percent seems a little low, but actually if you look at the way the question was phrased, a lot of the people that responded neutral would actually imply that they were favorable,” he said.
In particular, Meno said that another question within the poll, which includes language about taxing sales of marijuana, showed a rise in people favoring legalization – from 33 percent to 47 percent.
Marijuana prohibition has been a “complete failure,” according to Meno.
“When you pass laws against something, it’s not going to reduce its use, it’s going to create an elicit market,” he said.
Americans are more accepting of medical marijuana. The poll showed that 60 percent support the idea and 74 percent believe the drug has a real medical benefit for some people.
The poll’s results for both legalizing marijuana or on allowing its use for medicinal purposes were largely uniform across the various regions of the country, despite legal medical marijuana use being concentrated in the West.
John Lovell, a spokesman with the California Narcotics Officers’ Association, said he was not surprised by the poll results.
“At the end of the day, the public doesn’t want to have someone who can test positive for marijuana and get behind the wheel of a school bus,” he said.
Lovell said a particular problem with the California initiative is that it permits all California cities and counties to have their own regulatory scheme with regard to the drug.
This could lead to a situation where the city of Davis could have its own regulatory scheme, while Sacramento could have a different scheme, for instance.
“What you’re going to have is cannabis chaos,” Lovell said.
Lovell also expressed doubt as to whether the initiative would help the state economy since it does not authorize a state marijuana tax.
Students expressed their thoughts on both the poll and marijuana legalization in the state.
“I think it’s silly that more than 50 percent of people think this when there is very little scientific evidence that shows that marijuana is a harmful drug,” said Morgan Rockwell, a senior clinical nutrition major.
Rockwell said that if marijuana were to be legalized in California the regulatory scheme should be uniform throughout the state. However, she said that this might not be realistic since some counties and cities are apt to be more or less lax with their marijuana laws.
Linda Wolf, a junior communication major, said that she goes back and forth on whether or not she supports legalization.
“I see some of the economic value in legalizing [marijuana] for the clothing industry or for agricultural reasons, but I don’t want people to have even easier access to it,” she said. “I don’t want to deal with people being stoned all the time.”
CHINTAN DESAI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.