Marijuana Groups Kick Off DC Legalization Campaign

Apr 17, 2013

National and local advo­cates for mar­i­juana pol­icy reform are using a new poll to kick off a major push for the legal­iza­tion or decrim­i­nal­iza­tion of cannabis in the Dis­trict — one that could include the pur­suit of a bal­lot ini­tia­tive in 2014. The poll was spon­sored by the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project, the Drug Pol­icy Alliance and financed by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a com­pany that had backed legal­iza­tion ref­er­en­dums in four states. Pub­lic Pol­icy Polling con­ducted the auto­mated tele­phone poll on April 10 and 11, reach­ing 1,621 reg­is­tered vot­ers. It showed two-thirds of D.C. reg­is­tered vot­ers would at least par­tially sup­port a legal­iza­tion ref­er­en­dum sim­i­lar to the ones passed last year in Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton state. Three-quarters of poll respon­dents favored the decrim­i­nal­iza­tion approach adopted by sev­eral states and munic­i­pal­i­ties, which would turn the pos­ses­sion of small amounts of mar­i­juana from a crim­i­nal offense to some­thing more akin to a traf­fic ticket. A Jan­u­ary 2010 Wash­ing­ton Post sur­vey found res­i­dents more closely split when asked whether they favored legal­iz­ing the pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana for per­sonal use, with 46 per­cent in favor to 48 per­cent opposed. The Post poll, which car­ried a three-point mar­gin of error, showed white res­i­dents were much more likely to favor legal­iza­tion (60−35) than black res­i­dents (37−55). The new poll, which did not report a mar­gin of error, found a racial dis­par­ity, but a less dra­matic one. Both white and black res­i­dents favored Colorado/Washington-style legal­iza­tion, though by dif­fer­ent degrees — 77–19 for whites, 53–38 for blacks. Same goes for the decrim­i­nal­iza­tion ques­tion, which was sup­ported by 85 per­cent of white res­i­dents and 69 per­cent of black res­i­dents. There is evi­dence that national atti­tudes on mar­i­juana pol­icy have changed in recent years. A Pew Research Cen­ter poll released ear­lier this month found a major­ity of Amer­i­cans favored legal­iza­tion, mark­ing a dra­matic shift from even a decade ago, when closer to two-thirds of national poll respon­dents opposed legal­iza­tion. Adam Eidinger, a long­time local activist who is employed by Dr. Bronner’s, said the time has come for city lead­ers to change Dis­trict law to reflect pop­u­lar opin­ion. ”It’s a pop­u­lar issue, and up until now the coun­cil has ignored it,” he said. “Maybe now they’ll real­ize the cit­i­zens want to to decrim­i­nal­ize at the very least.” Offi­cials with the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project and Drug Pol­icy Alliance said they will be lob­by­ing the D.C. Coun­cil in the com­ing months to pur­sue leg­isla­tive changes. Mason Tvert, MPP’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor, said his group “will be talk­ing to com­mu­nity lead­ers and elected offi­cials about var­i­ous options for adopt­ing a more sen­si­ble mar­i­juana pol­icy in the Dis­trict.” Bill Piper, direc­tor of national affairs for the Drug Pol­icy Alliance, said decrim­i­nal­iza­tion would be a “no-brainer” but leg­is­la­tors “should do more.” “There is an oppor­tu­nity to make a clean break from the past and treat drug use as a health issue instead of a crim­i­nal jus­tice issue,” Piper said. The new push comes just as the city’s first med­ical mar­i­juana dis­pen­sary is set to open. But city leg­is­la­tors, most notably Coun­cil Chair­man Phil Mendel­son, have been wary of pur­su­ing wide scale decrim­i­nal­iza­tion or legal­iza­tion — or even a more lib­eral med­ical mar­i­juana régime — cit­ing the like­li­hood that fed­eral mar­i­juana laws will remain in effect and the poten­tial response from the city’s con­gres­sional over­seers. “There is a good argu­ment for decrim­i­nal­iz­ing a drug that is widely used and that results in a lot of arrest records and not hav­ing an effect on vio­lent crime,” Mendel­son said in Decem­ber, but “I don’t think this is the time for the Dis­trict to be dis­cussing that.” Eidinger said Tues­day that he is pre­pared to mount a bal­lot ini­tia­tive should the coun­cil fail to act. He has founded DCMJ — a skele­ton orga­ni­za­tion con­sist­ing, he says, “basi­cally me and a few other peo­ple in the city who are inter­ested in advanc­ing the issue.” “The idea is that we need to cre­ate a grass­roots orga­ni­za­tion in the city that is going to advance this bal­lot ini­tia­tive if we have to do it,” Eidinger said. “Mean­while, [MPP and DPA] will be accel­er­at­ing their lob­by­ing. I think it’s unnec­es­sary if the coun­cil does their jobs.” Piper, of the Drug Pol­icy Alliance, acknowl­edged “inter­nal and exter­nal dis­cus­sions about doing a bal­lot mea­sure” but “our pref­er­ence is to work with the coun­cil on a set of reforms to reduce incar­cer­a­tion, racial dis­par­i­ties, and drug over­doses.” Source: Wash­ing­ton Post (DC) Author: Mike DeBo­nis Pub­lished: April 17, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 Wash­ing­ton Post Com­pany Con­tact: letters@​washpost.​com Web­site: http://​www​.wash​ing​ton​post​.com/

cacde85945header.png 150x39 Marijuana Groups Kick Off DC Legalization Campaign

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Mar­i­juana Groups Kick Off DC Legal­iza­tion Campaign

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