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Diane Francis


Marijuana and the Election: Time to Start Asking Blunt Questions

Posted: 10/22/2012 5:49 pm

It's confusing and worrisome that election polling has become about as reliable as Tarot cards, or military intelligence. And media ignorance makes it all worse. Percentages are trotted out irrespective of pollster affiliation, pollster track records, sample sizes, sample weightings (gender, race, age, region), the nature of questions, times when info gathered and cell versus landline percentages. This year, some polls are sliced and diced into undefined pieces such as decideds, undecideds, registered Rs and Ds or independents.

All these factors skew polls and political teams have become masters at timed-releases in order to create the fiction that their guy's momentum builds or, conversely, their opponent's support ebbs. This is not transparency or democracy. This is polling war.

Besides baffling, poll reporting leaves out important factors. After Obamacare was approved, a poll was trotted out allegedly stating 57 per cent of Americans were not happy about the new laws. Turns out the media later said the 57 per cent were not happy because they felt the laws did not go far enough.

This year, polling gets nearly as much ink as do candidates, and often misses what's really on minds. An obvious gap is the fact that this November 6 will mark a turning point in an issue that's bubbled below the radar with more consequences than how Obama used the "T" word in the Rose Garden or Romney's reference to "binders of women."

On November 6, three states have on their ballots the outright legalization of marijuana -- Washington, Oregon and Colorado. So far, support is strong and bipartisan. The last such vote occurred in 2010 in California where a state-sanctioned referendum on legalization narrowly lost.

But on Nov. 6, there are three that appear ready to legalize in addition to three others -- Montana, Massachusetts and Arkansas -- that are voting on granting permits for "medical marijuana" usage. If they approve, and support appears to be strong so far, they will be added to the 17 states in the United States where "medical marijuana" can be grown and sold. Where this is allowed, loopholes and permits for medical consumption are so lax that there becomes virtual decriminalization.

In addition, five cities are staging referendum questions on the ballot about decriminalizing marijuana possession: four in Michigan or Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and Ypisilanti; then also Springfield, Missouri.
So 2012 is a banner year for the movement, headed by the NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Foundation. And it represents the convergence of national polls, that show up to 63 per cent of Americans favour lifting the prohibition on the basis of personal freedoms, and those often conservative types who realize that legalizing marijuana can boost government revenues instead of costing governments money.

The nub of the matter, however, will be that if these states vote to legalize their federal counterparts will still be obliged to enforce bans. So if a vote wins, that state or states will be taking the issue of state's rights to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In June 2011, Democratic Representative Barney Frank and Republican Ron Paul tabled a stopgap measure. Their bill would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances in order to allow states to decide how they would regulate it.

"Criminally prosecuting adults for making the choice to smoke marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources and an intrusion on personal freedom," said Frank. That grinds its way through a fractious Congress, but the marijuana movement grows. And if Washington, Oregon and Colorado legalize grass in November, whoever becomes the next President will have a showdown. He will have to instruct his DEA whether to enforce laws or ignore the outcomes and both candidates have supported the status quo. Last week, a DEA spokesman warned voters that legalization at the state level would contravene federal laws and incur a crackdown.

Colorado appears ready to go. A June poll showed that 61 per cent of voters will vote in favour of the recreational sale of cannabis to adults and only 29 per cent will oppose. The state has 500 dispensaries for medical marijuana in operation. Others, such as law enforcement and medical professionals, are lending their support to the initiative too. Polls in Oregon are running 46 per cent to 43 per cent against legalization, while those in Washington State -- beside the region's pot capital Vansterdam -- are running 50 per cent to 37 per cent in favour.

In Canada, the federal and provincial governments have also parted company. Provincial courts and police have virtually decriminalized possession and support by 2012 for outright decriminalization or legalization of marijuana was 66 per cent, according to Forum Research Inc. Despite this, the federal government tabled tough laws to crack down on crime, including mandatory sentences for marijuana possession. But such prohibition mentality is contrary to public opinion and also to common sense.

It was interesting that, after the Canadian law was proposed, a high-profile group of current and former U.S. law enforcement officials sent a letter to the Harper government with a surprising message: Take it from us, the war on drugs has been a "costly failure."

So you may not hear about the marijuana issue in debates or from the campaign stump, and in polls, but people south of the border are taking the matter into their own hands. November 6, will be a vote in some states that will be heard around the corridors of power and whoever is President, or Prime Minister of Canada, should certainly heed the results.

This article originally appeared in the Financial Post.

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  • $13.7 Billion Saved On Prohibition Enforcement Costs

    The government would save an estimated $13.7 billion on prohibition enforcement costs and tax revenue by legalizing marijuana, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/17/economists-marijuana-legalization_n_1431840.html" target="_hplink">according to a paper endorsed by 300 economists</a>.

  • Marijuana Inmates Cost Prisons $1 Billion A Year

    Inmates incarcerated on marijuana-related charges cost U.S. prisons $1 billion annually, according to a 2007 study, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/rights/47815/" target="_hplink">AlterNet reports</a>.

  • Marijuana Prohibition Costs Taxpayers $41.8 Billion A Year

    Including lost tax revenues, a 2007 study found that enforcing the marijuana prohibition costs tax payers $41.8 billion annually, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2007/09/29/marijuana-laws-work-biz-cx_qh_1001pot.html" target="_hplink">Forbes</a> reports.

  • California Marijuana Crop Worth $14 Billion A Year

    Marijuana growers account for <a href="http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1884956,00.html" target="_hplink">$14 billion a year in sales in California</a>, making it the state's most valuable cash crop, TIME reports.

  • Illegal Marijuana A $36 Billion A Year Industry

    It's estimated that <a href="http://madamenoire.com/106691/capitalizing-on-the-billion-dollar-marijuana-industry/" target="_hplink">illegal marijuana is a $36 billion industry</a> in the U.S., MadameNoire reports.

  • One-Third Of Americans Think Legalization Would Boost The Economy

    About one-third of Americans say they think <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?" target="_hplink">legalizing marijuana would boost the economy</a>, according to a 2010 poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

  • Dispensary Ads Boost Newspapers' Revenue

    The <em>Sacramento News and Review</em> saw a big boost in ad revenue when it offered advertising space for more than 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, enabling the publication to hire three additional employees, <a href="http://www.news10.net/news/local/article/144285/2/Marijuana-ads-mean-big-money-for-weekly-newspaper" target="_hplink">according to News 10</a>.

  • Mendocino Zip Tie Program Raised $600,000

    Mendocino County, California's zip tie program aimed at regulating medical marijuana growing by charging permits for each plant raised <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/09/medical-marijuana-license-mendocino_n_1193198.html" target="_hplink">$600,000 in revenue in for the Sheriff's department</a> in 2011.

  • Oakland Raised More Than $1 Million In Marijuana Tax Revenue

    The city of Oakland, California raised $1.3 million in tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in 2011, 3 percent of the city's total business tax revenue, according to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=1" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a>.

  • Colorado Pulls In $5 Million From Pot Sales Tax

    In 2011, Colorado pulled in $5 milllion in sales taxes from medical marijuana businesses, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/us/cities-turn-to-a-crop-for-cash-medical-marijuana.html?_r=1" target="_hplink"><em>The New York Times</em></a> reports.

  • Legal Marijuana Could Be $100 Billion Industry

    Economist Stephen Easton estimated in 2010 that <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/debateroom/archives/2010/03/legalize_mariju.html" target="_hplink">legal marijuana could be a $45 to $100 billion industry</a>, <em>Bloomberg Businessweek</em> reports.

  • Each weGrow Center Creates 75 Jobs

    When hydroponic marijuana growing supply chain weGrow opens a new store it <a href="http://aznow.biz/small-biz/wegrow-phoenix-opens-cultivates-opportunities-arizona)" target="_hplink">creates an estimated 75 jobs</a> indirectly, according to AZBusiness Magazine.

  • Majority Of States Support Taxing Marijuana

    More than <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/20/legalizing-pot-will-not-b_n_544526.html?" target="_hplink">60 percent of states agree with taxing marijuana</a>, according to a poll by Associated Press-CNBC.

  • Marijuana Affects Workplace Motivation

    A Norwegian study 25 years in the making came to the shocking conclusion that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/marijuana-use-has-adverse-affect-workplace-motivation_n_1300278.html?" target="_hplink">frequent marijuana use lowers employees' motivation at work</a>.

  • More Than 1,000 Dispensaries In California

    There could be more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in California, <a href="http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/how_does_your_pot_grow/8070/" target="_hplink"><em>Pasadena Weekly</em></a> reported in 2009.

  • Denver Counts More Dispensaries Than Starbucks

    As of July 2011, the city of Denver <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/06/medical-marijuana-denver-starbucks_n_891796.html" target="_hplink">counted more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks franchises</a>.


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