Tuesday, November 24, 2009

popular support for legalization gaining ground

WaPo | The same day they rejected a gay marriage ballot measure, residents of Maine voted overwhelmingly to allow the sale of medical marijuana over the counter at state-licensed dispensaries.

Later in the month, the American Medical Association reversed a longtime position and urged the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which equates it with heroin.

A few days later, advocates for easing marijuana laws left their biannual strategy conference with plans to press ahead on all fronts -- state law, ballot measures, and court -- in a movement that for the first time in decades appeared to be gaining ground.

"This issue is breaking out in a remarkably rapid way now," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Public opinion is changing very, very rapidly."

The shift is widely described as generational. A Gallup poll in October found 44 percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana -- a rise of 13 points since 2000. Gallup said that if public support continues growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year, "the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years."

A 53 percent majority already does so in the West, according to the survey. The finding heartens advocates collecting signatures to put the question of legalization before California voters in a 2010 initiative.