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Support For Marijuana Legalization Grew Again In 2018, Pew Poll Finds

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Support for marijuana legalization increased again over the past year, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

In the poll of about 1,750 people administered in late September, 62 percent of Americans said they agreed that cannabis should be legal. That’s a one point bump since the last time the center polled on marijuana, roughly a year ago in October 2017.

And, opposition continued to decline at an even greater rate than support increased. Only 34 percent said that marijuana should remain illegal, compared to 37 percent who said the same last year.

“One of the greatest benchmarks of the success of legalization is the simple fact that public support for this policy change has only grown in the years since states began enacting it,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano told Marijuana Moment in an email. “The public has spoken and it is time for leaders in both parties to come together and amend federal law in a manner that comports with marijuana’s rapidly changing cultural and legal status.”

Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed.

“The fact that support continues to grow as states have been ending marijuana prohibition over the past few years suggests Americans are comfortable with the changes that are taking place,” he said. “They see cannabis being sold legally in regulated businesses and they recognize it is a much more preferable system. The idea of arresting and punishing adults for consuming marijuana is becoming increasingly unpopular, and elected officials are taking notice.”

Broken down by demographics, a majority of respondents in virtually every category voiced support for legalization. The exceptions were Republicans, Hispanic individuals and white evangelical Protestants.

Via Pew Research Center.

That said, 59 percent of independent respondents who said they “lean Republican” favor legal cannabis, and a separate nationally representative survey from Gallup last year showed that a slim majority of Republicans (51 percent) backed legal marijuana.

“Republicans are divided, with 45 percent in favor of legalizing marijuana and 51 percent opposed,” Pew wrote of the new results. “Still, the share of Republicans saying marijuana should be legal has increased from 39 percent in 2015.”

Diving into the results as broken down by generation signals that legalization is a trend that will only accelerate in the future. Seventy-four percent of millennials back ending prohibition, as do 63 percent of those in Generation X. Only the Silent Generation opposes legalization overall, but Pew reports that its members “have become more supportive in the past year.”

Growing support for legalization has closely followed legislative developments at the state and local level, the survey authors observed. “This November, voters across seven states will vote on a variety of statewide and local marijuana reform measures,” Hannah Hartig and Abigail Geiger of Pew wrote.

What direction voters in those jurisdictions will take next month is yet to be seen, but this and other polls seems to reveal a political landscape where reform efforts have the advantage over sustained prohibition.

Voters In Seven States Will See These Marijuana Questions On Election Day

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

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Kyle Jaeger is an LA-based contributor to Marijuana Moment. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, and attn.

Politics

People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week

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Marijuana legalization is a solid first step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to resolve  socioeconomic and racial inequities brought about by the war on drugs.

Hence, we now have National Expungement Week. The first-of-its-kind campaign, supported by a coalition of cannabis and social justice organizations called the Equity First Alliance, is taking place from October 20-27.

The organizations will offer “expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records,” according to the campaign website. “These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served.”

In an open letter, the alliance also said it was “largely unsupported by the cannabis industry and by the traditional funders of equity work.” While a main argument in support of legalization is that it would help to repair drug war damages, which have disproportionately affected communities of color, the laws and markets created by the successful movement haven’t necessarily lived up to its name, the alliance wrote.

To that end, the campaign has organized events across the country—from Los Angeles to Boston—to provide legal services to those whose criminal records are able to be reduced or expunged. You can check out the full list of events here.

The alliance’s agenda touches on numerous reform policies, including using marijuana tax revenue to fund communities that have been impacted by prohibition, implementing social equity programs, ensuring corporate responsibility for businesses that profit off cannabis and providing affordable medical cannabis for low-income patients, among other policies.

“We believe that we have a short but vital window of opportunity to change the course of the cannabis industry—and by doing so, we can prevent further harms to the most impacted communities and create a model of reparative economic and criminal justice.”

Adam Vine, co-founder of Cafe-Free Cannabis and an organizer with the campaign, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is necessary “because millions of Americans have been harmed by the war on drugs and continue to face collateral consequences for convictions that may have happened years ago.”

“These consequences restrict people’s access to employment, housing, education, and social services, so our coalition decided to do something about it,” he said. “We are coordinating these events to provide free legal relief and to say that as states move towards cannabis legalization, expungement needs to be the first priority.”

Marijuana Use Will No Longer Be Prosecuted In Manhattan

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Chris Christie Finally Recognizes Marijuana Legalization As States’ Rights Issue

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Famously anti-marijuana former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) isn’t jumping on the pro-legalization train any time soon—but new comments suggest he might be softening his opposition a smidge, recognizing marijuana reform as a states’ rights issue.

Speaking at Politicon on Saturday, Christie took a question about his cannabis stance from YouTuber Kyle Kulinski, who asked him to weigh in on studies showing that states with legal marijuana programs experience lower rates of opioid addiction and overdoses compared to non-legal states. He was quick to dismiss the research, contending that other studies show the “exact opposite.”

“I just don’t believe when we’re in the midst of a drug addiction crisis that we need to legalize another drug,” Christie said, echoing comments he’s made as chair of President Donald Trump’s opioids committee.

Then he pivoted, acknowledging that some will push back on his anti-legalization position by pointing out that alcohol is legal. “I get that,” he said, “but I wasn’t here when we legalized alcohol.”

Kulinski seized on that point and asked the former governor if he’d vote to ban alcohol.

“No, I wouldn’t ban it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and that’s a big, important argument about marijuana because once you legalize this, that toothpaste never goes back in the tube.”

Christie stood out among other Republican and Democratic contenders during his 2016 presidential run by maintaining that in addition to personally opposing legalization, he’d crack down on legal cannabis states and enforce federal laws nationwide if elected.

“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said in 2015. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.

So it came as something of a surprise when the former governor went on to say in the Politicon appearance that “states have the right to do what they want to do on this,” signaling a modest shift in his anti-marijuana rhetoric. States should have that right even though, as Christie put it, “broad legalization of marijuana won’t, in my view, alleviate or even minimize the opioid crisis.”

It’s unclear what’s behind the apparent shift from hardline prohibitionist to wary federalist, but who knows… maybe Christie experienced an epiphany at a Melissa Etheridge concert he attended earlier this month.

Etheridge, who recently spoke with Marijuana Moment about her cannabis advocacy and use of the drug for medicinal purposes, reacted to a tweet showing Christie at one of her recent performances, where he reportedly knew every word of her songs and sang along.

Christie, for his part, replied that he “enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans.”

Hm…

GIF by #ActionAliens

Melissa Etheridge Talks Art, Culture and Marijuana Advocacy In The Legalization Era

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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Politics

Marijuana Support Grows: Two Out Of Three Americans Back Legalization, Gallup Says

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Two-thirds of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, the highest percentage ever in Gallup’s ongoing decades-long series of national polls on the topic.

The new survey released on Monday shows that U.S. adults back ending cannabis prohibition by a supermajority margin of 66 percent to 32 percent. That’s more than a two-to-one ratio.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.

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