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October 20, 2009

"U.S. Support for Legalizing Marijuana Reaches New High"

Pot poll The title of this post is the headline of this new Gallup poll report.  Here are some of the very notable particulars: 

Gallup's October Crime poll finds 44% of Americans in favor of making marijuana legal and 54% opposed. U.S. public support for legalizing marijuana was fixed in the 25% range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but acceptance jumped to 31% in 2000 and has continued to grow throughout this decade.

Public opinion is virtually the same on a question that relates to a public policy debate brewing in California -- whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed as a way of raising revenue for state governments.  Just over 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say they would favor this in their own state; 56% are opposed.  Support is markedly higher among residents of the West -- where an outright majority favor the proposal -- than in the South and Midwest. The views of Eastern residents fall about in the middle.

The new findings come as the U.S. Justice Department has reportedly decided to loosen its enforcement of federal anti-marijuana laws by not pursuing individuals who buy or sell small amounts of the drug in conformity with their own states' medical marijuana laws.  This seems likely to meet with U.S. public approval, as previous Gallup polling has found Americans generally sympathetic to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. In 2003, 75% of Americans favored allowing doctors to legally prescribe marijuana to patients in order to reduce pain and suffering....

Most of the expansion in support for legalizing marijuana since Gallup last measured this in 2005 is seen among women, younger Americans, Democrats, moderates, and liberals.  By comparison, there has been little change in the views of men, seniors, Republicans, independents, and conservatives. Regionally, support has grown the most in the West and Midwest.

Among the most notable findings in this latest poll is the fact that 50% of persons between ages 18 and 49 are reported as favoring making marijuana legal.  Especially since I suspect that this number jump even higher for all voters under 30, I think it will not be long before politicians who are seriously interested in appealing to young voters will have to start showing serious interest in legalizing (or at least decriminalizing) some non-medical marijuana usage.

Some recent related posts:

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Comments

Marijuana cannot be allowed to become another cigarette health catastrophe, killing 400,000 people a year. Its smoke causes lung cancer. It active ingredient causes hunger and psychosis. There are people addicted to it.

I suggest legalizing all adult pleasures but licensing the buyer. When the buyer has suffered damage from the adult pleasure, he should lose the license, and be spared further damage.

http://supremacyclaus.blogspot.com/2009/03/legalize-adult-pleasures-but-license.html

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 20, 2009 3:35:43 PM

SC-

There are already alternatives to smoking marijuana such as ingestion and the use of vaporizers. If marijuana use becomes more mainstream, companies will have a monetary incentive to make it even safer.

Posted by: Shawn | Oct 20, 2009 4:17:10 PM

Evidence suggests that marijuana is much safer for the lungs than cigarettes – especially when smoked with a water pipe or vaporizer. But more critically: We don't arrest and imprison hundreds of thousands of cigarette smokers. I suppose that might be because, while cigarettes are bad for you, mass arrest and incarceration would be really stupid public policy.

Posted by: dm | Oct 20, 2009 5:54:32 PM

dm --

By all means, getting blasted is good for you. It's even better for the people you're on the road with when your reaction time gets screwed up and you cause a crash.

Indeed, dope is SO good for you that the AMA is just blowing smoke (so to speak) when it says that dope should remain, not merely illegal, but a Schedule I (i.e., most dangerous and most heavily penalized) controlled substance.

I mean, sound public policy would absolutely encourage dangerous behavior B (like getting stoned) simply because it does not more resolutely discourage dangerous behavior A (like getting drunk). After all, the more dangerous behavior we have, the better off we'll all be!!!

Why didn't I think of that?

P.S. If you want to stay out of jail for smoking pot, my suggestion is to PUT DOWN THE JOINT. At some point, people have to accept responsibility for their own choices, rather than do stuff they know is illegal and then yelp when they get caught.

P.P.S. Do you want your kid doing pot? Think that's a apt way for him to start a wholesome, healthy life full of good choices?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2009 6:32:22 PM

One intolerable effect of prohibition is the opprobrium it brings on the rule of law. Cigarettes kill 400,000 people, alcohol, 100,000 people a year. Pot, cocaine, heroin, combined, let's go to an extreme, kill 10,000 people a year. The ones that killed millions are legal, those that killed thousands are illegal. It makes the law look stupid. The reason it appears stupid is that it is stupid, run by dumbasses, who do not know anything. Get rid of the lawyer dumbass from all seats in the legislature, all benches, and all responsible policy positions in the Executive. The law must be respected by being smart and respectable, and most of all, it must be successful and earn the support of the majority of people. It should be judged like a musical hit, a successful product that works well and helps or pleases people. The losers must be jettisoned from inventory mercilessly. The law is not above the judgment of the public, it is dependent on it.

The lawyer is too stupid to even know what I am saying. This is despite their native IQ's of 300, knocked down to special ed class level by the law school education. I hope Prof. Berman is satisfied. He is getting ultra-bright kids and sending them forth from law school slower than special ed students.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 20, 2009 7:11:17 PM

Oh, the old "avoid it because it's illegal" argument. Why, didn't it used to be illegal to marry outside of one's race? We were not put here to be good little subjects. Laws are tools that allow us to live together outside the state of nature. We were not put here merely to "follow the law." When will the police-state apologist figure out that you can't legislate morality? Or, maybe they enjoy putting their fellow humans in cages?

Posted by: Mark #1 | Oct 20, 2009 10:12:33 PM

Hey Bill. Here's a crazy idea: maybe some acts that are harmful or dangerous should nevertheless be legal – because the costs of policing and punishing those acts exceeds the costs of the harm. For example, 1000s fewer people would die if we set the speed limit on freeways at 30 mph, but we nevertheless allow people to drive faster.

No one is saying marijuana is without harm or risk. Read that again. No one is saying it is without harm or risk. Neither are sex, cars, fast food, football, bungee jumping, guns, mountain climbing, and romantic relationships. The issue is not that the more dangerous behavior we have, the better the world is. The issue is that we, generally speaking, allow human beings to weigh the risk for themselves, so long as the act doesn't impose risks on others. In my world we call that liberty.

As for my kid: I want him to grow up in a world where they are generally free, hopefully with the help of responsible adults, to make thoughtful decisions about which risks they want to avoid and which they are willing to bear.

As I see it, you're free to weigh your own fears and come to your own conclusions. I just hope to convince the legislature to allow me the same right.

Posted by: dm | Oct 20, 2009 11:27:16 PM

Well said, dm.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 20, 2009 11:42:42 PM

Hear hear.

Posted by: JC | Oct 20, 2009 11:53:33 PM

Shawn: The advocates for medical marijuana reject these. There is evidence of delirium and confusion in seniors smoking dope. Controlled oral administration is effective for the loss of appetite in chemotherapy, anxiety disorders, glaucoma, etc., but marinol is rejected by the activists. One suspects medical marijuana is more getting high marijuana than medical.

The cannabis receptor, when blocked, and not stimulated, became the basis for the best weight loss medication, effective long term. The fear of litigation for agitation in a small fraction of people made it impossible to bring to the US, even though available in Canada. Thank the lawyer for deterring a great medication, the opposite of marijuana. Also, the same way marijuana turns people into lazy, amotivated morons, this anti-marijuana smartens people up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabinoid_receptor_antagonist

Thank the lawyer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 21, 2009 1:39:32 AM


dm --

"Hey Bill. Here's a crazy idea: maybe some acts that are harmful or dangerous should nevertheless be legal – because the costs of policing and punishing those acts exceeds the costs of the harm. For example, 1000s fewer people would die if we set the speed limit on freeways at 30 mph, but we nevertheless allow people to drive faster."

Hey dm. Here's a crazy idea: obey democratically enacted laws until, by persuasion, you get the legislature to change them. Just doing what you want, the law be damned, is not liberty. It's anarchy.

And it's true that we allow people to drive faster than 30. It is not true, however, that we allow them to drive faster than 90. At some point, libertarian sloganeering has to give way to a bit of nuance.

The question is: When is the behavior TOO RISKY to tolerate? Different minds will have different answers to that question. (I note that you skipped past the AMA's answer to it in the case of marijuana). If we are to have a social contract at all, we have to have the patience and forebearance to allow the legislature to decide the when-is-it-too-risky question. If we don't like the result, we can fire them at the next election.

But the CSA has stood for over 35 years. If you have a problem with it, take it up with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

"No one is saying marijuana is without harm or risk. Read that again. No one is saying it is without harm or risk."

Actually, it gets said all the time. And while you didn't say it, you minimized the harm and risk in a way the medical profession declines to do.

"Neither are sex, cars, fast food, football, bungee jumping, guns, mountain climbing, and romantic relationships. The issue is not that the more dangerous behavior we have, the better the world is."

Actually, that IS the issue, or a very important issue. The fact that legalizers would prefer to sweep it under the rug doesn't make it go away.

"The issue is that we, generally speaking, allow human beings to weigh the risk for themselves, so long as the act doesn't impose risks on others. In my world we call that liberty."

First, marijuana DOES impose risks on others, as you implicitly concede. Even absent the concession, however, the point is clear. Any day you care to, open the newspaper and read about the latest family wiped out in some wreck caused by a stoned driver who "weighed the risk for himself."

Second, your point as stated would apply equally to cocaine, heroin, LSD and meth, among other drugs. Are you for legalizing them too? If not, why not? Shouldn't we "allow human beings to weigh the risks for themselves"? Why does your version of human "liberty" stop because the pharmacological effects of Substance X are different from the pharmacological effects of Substance Y? Isn't the anthem of liberty more important than that?

"As for my kid: I want him to grow up in a world where they are generally free, hopefully with the help of responsible adults, to make thoughtful decisions about which risks they want to avoid and which they are willing to bear."

I agree, with the important additional caveat that your kid has to obey democratically enacted laws whether he agrees with them or not, even while being free to try any peaceful means to change them. But pending change, he doesn't get to be his own legislature.


"As I see it, you're free to weigh your own fears and come to your own conclusions. I just hope to convince the legislature to allow me the same right."

I disagree with the legislature all the time. For example, I think taxes are way too high for a healthy, innovative and entrepeneurial economy. But I pay the taxes anyway, because my views lost in the last election. And if I DIDN'T pay, and got caught, I would have no grounds to complain that I was a victim of statism.

Finally, dm, I am not unsympathetic to your point of view. I used to be a libertarian, until adult life showed me that it doesn't work. I applaud and share your instinct to be free from the encroachments of the administrative/nanny state. But as an attorney and a citizen, I have no choice but to respect the rule of law; and as a human being, I have no choice but to take seriously the enormous amount of misery drugs cause.




Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 21, 2009 5:31:53 AM

Bill: What if the law is stupid, a self-dealing, bunco scheme in rent seeking, rigged airtight to enrich land pirates, based on supernatural doctrines violating the Establishment Clause, and destroying our country? What is your duty as a citizen and attorney? You have educated the public, and they agree with you. Their elected officials are all figureheads holding 1% of the power. The rest of decisions are made by members of a criminal cult enterprise.

For example, a law puts a bounty on family destruction and generates lots of lawyer jobs. Assume there are lots of data showing kids raised by single mothers are seriously damaged. However, they require a lot of government services. So no one may even criticize the mother without losing their social service job.

What if every goal of every law subject is in failure? What if the lawyer profession running government sucks because it uses unlawful ideas and methods from 1250 AD and from a church?

These aren't sarcastic questions. I would like to hear about any nonviolent remedy.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 21, 2009 6:37:39 AM

Bill, I think underneath our disagreement is different views about the severity of the harms that marijuana causes. I see them as negligible – at least compared to all sorts of things that we readily accept as not only legal but useful and important parts of a free society, even if there is some risk involved.

No one is suggesting that it should be legal to drive while high. Just like one ought not be able to do so while drunk or while sending text messages. That is a situation where the risks that I may choose for myself begin to cause serious dangers to others. No one who supports legalization – or decriminalization – believes that we should also eliminate our driving while under the influence laws.

Similarly, no one is suggesting that marijuana be made legal to kids. Again, just like alcohol, cigarettes, credit cards, R rated movies, etc., we recognize that some decisions are not appropriate for children to make. Our society is quite capable of creating legal regimes that allow adults the freedom to make choices that we think children do not have the maturity to make.

But that's a very different situation than an adult smoking up at home. There the harms that are caused on others are de minimis and at best exceedingly indirect.

I might point out that virtually no one – no one – dies from smoking pot. Hundreds of thousands die from smoking cigarettes. I don't hear you similarly advocating for making cigarettes illegal. That would save far more lives than legalizing marijuana would cost. Why not take up the cause? Similarly far more peoples lives are ruined by alcohol. I recommend that you take up that cause too. Alcohol prohibition worked out so well last time we tried it. And really that's the point. We've come to recognize that the costs of prohibition far, far outweighed the benefits. Why we've chosen to impose the same legal prohibition regime on marijuana – a comparitively benign substance is nothing more than hysteria, a reefer madness.

In the meantime, I'm lobbying the legislature. And taking my chances with the law. While I recognize that violating it is harmful to the rule of law, so is driving 66 mph in a 65 mph zone. But I'm willing to bear the risk.

Posted by: dm | Oct 21, 2009 8:25:38 AM

Adding one more thing: I think our social attitudes about marijuana have largely changed to reflect its relative benign-ness. The fact that more than half of Americans have tried the drug at some point in their life and that 30%+ smoke it in any given year reflect that emerging social consensus. (How many other activities that so many people regularly do, does our society punish with prison time?) But the laws haven't changed. They're in the process – that's what the experiment with medical marijuana is about, largely.

The real problem is that rather than change the laws, we've created a society where they (largely) are enforced only on certain groups – generally black and latino people and the occasional younger white. If the laws were enforced on the elite – people like Obama and Bush, themselves both pot smokers -- the laws would change in a heartbeat. I don't worry about arrest or the consequences. Nor do any of my middle class adult white friends almost all of whom smoke pot. What bothers me is that we regularly punish a small group of others for the same thing that 100 million Americans do every year.

Posted by: dm | Oct 21, 2009 8:42:31 AM

Bill-

Why do you give so much weight to the AMA? I researched a paper on marijuana regulation and I noticed the AMA was the one outlier who did not support medical marijuana amongst medical groups. I wish I had a copy of my paper so I could paste my footnote. You can check out a list of some of the others here or do your own search: http://www.examiner.com/x-7002-Pittsburgh-Neighborhood-History-Examiner~y2009m6d2-Health-organizations-supporting-immediate-legal-access-to-medical-marijuana

Also, the schedulization of marijuana is completely political. Schedule I is supposed to be for "drug[s] or other substance has no currently accepted medical use". Well 14 states and countless doctors believe marijuana has many accepted medical uses. Also, marinol, a sythetic THC-based drug is listed in Schedule III. Additionally, many states that copied the CSA have lowered marijuana to lower levels or removed it from the scheduling system altogether.

Posted by: Shawn | Oct 21, 2009 2:57:36 PM

"Here's a crazy idea: obey all democratically enacted laws until, by persuasion, you get the legislature to change them."

So, Bill, when you said in an earlier post that you wish a prostitute, who also happened to be a Stanford law student, had been there when you went to Stanford, you meant you wish she had been there so you could have,before partaking of her services, persuaded the legislature to repeal the laws making prostitution, and hiring a prostitute, illegal. Right?

Posted by: all that | Oct 21, 2009 3:52:23 PM

all that --

Wrong. And try to get a life.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 21, 2009 3:56:44 PM

So why am I wrong? You are usually so eager to defend your posts. Why not now?

And I do have a life: chuckling over Bill Otis and his hypocrisy.

Posted by: all that | Oct 21, 2009 4:03:12 PM

Shawn --

"Why do you give so much weight to the AMA?"

Because it is the leading professional organization of medical science, and has no axe to grind on this one.

"I researched a paper on marijuana regulation and I noticed the AMA was the one outlier who did not support medical marijuana amongst medical groups."

That is incorrect. See the positions taken by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Cancer Society, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.


"Also, the schedulization of marijuana is completely political."

Really? What's the evidence for that?

"Schedule I is supposed to be for 'drug[s] or other substance has no currently accepted medical use'. Well 14 states and countless doctors believe marijuana has many accepted medical uses."

I didn't know Congress was required to defer to the opinions of 28% of the states over the laws of the other 72%.

"Also, marinol, a sythetic THC-based drug is listed in Schedule III."

Correct. THC does indeed have some legitimate medical uses. But THC is not a joint or a bong, and that's what's being talked about here. The reason I oppose smoked marijuana is, among other things, that there is no control for strength, purity, adulteration and the other things that differentiate legitimate medicine from just getting zapped.

Similarly, I support morphine but oppose heroin. The former is medicine, and the latter is a misery-producing agent of addiction, ruin and death.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 21, 2009 4:31:52 PM

Bill-

Are you a doctor? You know way more medical organizations that I do. My point is that while the AMA appears to be cautious, many other medical groups have came out in favor of using medical marijuana. Also, since you like statistics so much, I noticed the AMA only represents about 20% of practicing physicians. A solid organization, no doubt, but perhaps not fully representative of the majority of doctors.

As far as the scheduling of marijuana being political, that is my personal opinion but it is supported by the medical marijuana movement, of which you seem to be in favor of to some degree. If something is a legal medicine in 14 states (and I don't know how many others have exceptions and affirmative defenses for medical uses), then there is strong evidence the schedule I listing is unsupported by modern scientific research. The scheduling of marinol is further evidence.

Also, I do not think we are really in complete disagreement here. I also favor clean, safe ways of using medical marijuana. I think if it was regulated and taxed, there would be incentive for entrepreneurs to come up with safer ways to use it, such as filters, vaporizers, nose sprays, gels, etc. I did not realize you were differentiating between smoked marijuana and THC. I thought you were against medical marijuana in all forms.

Posted by: Shawn | Oct 21, 2009 5:18:22 PM

Bill - the AMA is hardly an organization with no axe to grind on this or any other issue - it is primarily a lobbying/trade organization that represents a small percentage of doctors. Interestingly enough, the AMA's position is directly contrary to the position it took in 1937 despite the fact that today there is stronger evidence that marijuana is medically effective (in 1937 the main evidence was that marijuana was used as medicine for approximately 5000 years of recorded history, today there are peer reviewed studies). The National Instutite of Health and the National Institute of Medicine - yes our the federal government - had an extensive review and recommended that states should be allowed to legalize medical marijuana to provide an opportunity for increased clinical study to determine the best way to receive the medical benefits of marijuana. In fact, it is basicaly ignoring science to claim that marijuana has no medical benefit - because every scientific study and 5000 years of human history says that it does.

Bill, your opposition to medical marijuana is quite predictable and fits in nicely with the Right's ignoring of science that disagrees with their preferred worldview. We all know that Republicans put ideology over science. You might as well be denying evolution and claiming that the sun revolves around the earth - because you are choosing to ignore what scientific research solely due to it disagreeing with your ideology. For a smart guy you are being extremely stupid - and unlike the AMA whose opposition is due to financial motives, you don't even have an excuse. When our own government experts say that marijuana is medically useful and research needs to be done to determine how to best utilize it - saying that marijuana is not medically useful is no different than claiming the sun revolves around the earth or that evolution did not take place.

Posted by: virginia | Oct 21, 2009 6:08:52 PM

Shawn --

I am not a doctor. From 2003 - 2007, I was Counselor to the Administrator of the DEA, which is why I know about what various medical organizations say about pot. When you have that position, you talk to a lot of people.

For most of my professional life, I was in a career (i.e., non-political) position: AUSA and Senior Litigation Counsel in the USAO for EDVA. I was in charge of appeals.

I retired from the government a couple of years ago. One reason I liked government service is that there is virtually no client pressure to do or say things you don't really believe. That is a luxury not always available in private practice.

I am in favor of Marinol for pretty much the same reasons you are. I can get sick, and people I care about can get sick, just like the rest of the human race. When that happens, I want the best we can do for them. If THC in FDA approved form can help, all the better.

One of my problems with the medical marijuana movement is that it is often a front for no-holds-barred, recreational use of marijuana. Indeed, that has been the experience of a number of these cannabis clubs in Oakland and San Fransisco, as reported by none other than the New York Times.

The marijuana we have now is not your father's weed. It is seven to eight times more potent than it was in the early seventies. Its nostalgic reputation among my generation as a benign drug is misguided.

I am also a lapsed libertarian. I wish the world worked in a way that vindicated the libertarian anthem, but it doesn't. People wind up being victims of ignorance, wishful thinking and, tragically, addiction. To me, it is cruel to just let this happen. Keeping the current regime is far from a perfect answer, I'll grant you that, but it's the least objectionable alternative in my opinion.

Let me tell you one last story about why I am an opponent of drug legalization. The DEA hosts occasional events honoring agents killed in the line of duty. At one event early in my tenure as Counselor, I met a lady who is part of the anti-drug movement. She got there because her daughter had become a meth addict and died a horrible death from that drug. She was 16 at the time.

This had happened several years before, and the mother had long since cried all the tears she had. She was all griefed out, and seemed more weary than sad as she told me her story.

She then said this to me (paraphrase): "If you had arrested her (the daughter) earlier, she'd be alive today. Why didn't you?"

For one of the few times in my life, I had no answer. It was a moment that will haunt me for a very long time.

I apologize for going sentimental on you, but I wanted to explain one reason I take an interest in this subject.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 21, 2009 6:20:37 PM

all that --

"I do have a life: chuckling over Bill Otis and his hypocrisy."

If THAT'S your version of having a life..............gads.

If you ever want to make an actual, civil argument, as Shawn, dm, Marc and Soronel do, without the ad hominem stuff, I'll be happy to talk with you. But your anonymous mudslinging isn't worth the effort, to be blunt.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 21, 2009 6:34:45 PM

Bill-

I was one of Professor Berman's law students the last three years. I never met so many libertarians before I went to law school. One reason I post on Professor Berman's blog is because I miss the intellectual arguments I had with my classmates outside of class. I find a lot of appeal in libertarianism, but I feel like the philosophy, like our economy in general, requires informed, rational consumers to reach its full potential. Unfortunately, that seems to be something that is in short supply.

Also, although I am not yet an attorney, I agree gov't service appears to provide many luxuries that private practice cannot. I am currently waiting for my bar results and applying for mostly gov't positions. That is great that you worked for the EDVA. I interned for the SDOH and thought their AUSAs seemed to really enjoy their work.

Now I will get sentimental on you for a second: My mother has MS and amongst her reading and research materials, she has several articles on medical marijuana. Ohio doesn't have a medical marijuana statute, and I know it has not been found to be very beneficial for MS patients anyway. I think my mom was always looking for a magic bullet that could reverse her symptoms. I doubt marjiuana would be the answer, but if she thought it would help and wanted to try, I would do everything I could to help her.

Our experiences reflect some of the complicated issues with drug legalization. Personally, I think marijuana is different, and a line can be rationally drawn between the regulation of marijuana and the prohibition of other drugs. At the very least, I would like to see a state like California regulate and tax marijuana to see whether it is an overall net benefit.

As Justice O'Connor said (quoting Justice Brandeis): "Federalism promotes innovation by allowing for the possibility that 'a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country...'"
- Gonzales v. Raich

Posted by: Shawn | Oct 22, 2009 11:26:23 AM

conducted the survey sample is very surprising dogfish indices of marijuana use in the U.S. population is very alarming

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