Tag: marijuana

Blunt Words

by on May.31, 2010, under Politics

The Los Angeles Times/USC poll finds that support for legalized marijuana leads at 49%, but is soft, with one-third of supporters only “somewhat” supporting it:

Voters were also split over whether legalized marijuana would worsen social problems, such as increasing crime and triggering higher marijuana use among teenagers. Those concerns appear to have much more potency with voters than the debate over tax revenues. Among those who oppose the initiative, 83% think it would add to the state’s social woes; 55% of married women also believe that.

Me, May 20:

The talking points in favor of legalization are simple: regulate and tax it like alcohol and reap more than $1 billion of revenue that can patch the holes in our budget. These are terrible talking points, and I think it’s because of this mostly bloodless approach to the issue that the initiative will fail.

The one-third of supporters who polled as weak will mostly not vote; a few will be turned to “no” votes. What if we generously assume that one-third hold to yes, one-third convert to no, and one-third don’t vote, and also that the 10% who answered “don’t know” or refused to answer don’t vote? The measure goes down, 55-45. I think it will be closer than that, but that kind of loss doesn’t feel extreme.

I’d like to see an ad for legalization that forgot about the tax revenue case and showed a boring looking middle-aged couple saying something along the lines of, “We don’t really smoke much pot anymore. It was pretty fun when we were younger, but these days we prefer a nice glass of wine. Still, I wouldn’t mind an occasional hit, and certainly, no one should go to jail for it. We’ll tell our kids what we’ve already told them about alcohol: your body isn’t ready for it now, but it’s something you might enjoy occasionally in moderation.” Then some policy case foofara, followed by a tag of the couple saying, “Oh, you remember that party where you shared that spliff with Kenny? That was trippy, man…”  and being embarrassing dorks.

I don’t think it would turn the election, but it would start to address the emotional content of the civic debate in a way that “use taxes will fill the budget gap” doesn’t.

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Mellow, Harshed

by on May.20, 2010, under Politics

I don’t think this November’s California Marijuana Legalization Initiative will pass. According to Joe Mathews at Planet Zero, it’s tied in the polls (a surprise to me — another poll, touted by advocates, touted upper-50s support) and it’s losing with women, seniors and Latinos. The election is five and a half months away, however, and neither the Yes nor the No campaign has taken off in earnest.

The talking points in favor of legalization are simple: regulate and tax it like alcohol and reap more than $1 billion of revenue that can patch the holes in our budget. These are terrible talking points, and I think it’s because of this mostly bloodless approach to the issue that the initiative will fail.

The No position has an advantage in every election; people are reflexively suspicious of initiatives. (This seems not to be the case regarding initiatives promising stiffer criminal penalties.) The No campaign against marijuana legalization will be mostly fought by parents’ groups and police groups, who will go back to the Reefer Madness well, calling marijuana addictive and predicting horrible social consequences for children if they can access the devil weed as easily as they can find someone to buy them cigarettes (though I’ve been told by under-18s that it’s easier to buy pot from the old dope peddler than it is cigarettes from terrified store clerks). It will be an emotional campaign, and it will depend less on the strength of its arguments as much as it will on the ambivalence of the electorate. Consider what strikes me as one of the more effective lines of attack:

“We are quite concerned that by legalizing marijuana, it will definitely lower the perception of risk, and we will see youth use go through the roof,” said Aimee Hendle, a spokeswoman for Californians for Drug Free Youth.

I don’t think the perception of risk attached to marijuana is all that great, and I think youth use will depend mainly on price, which will depend mainly on tax rates. A voter is likely to have tried marijuana (102 million Americans over the age of 12 have), but what the Yes campaign hasn’t quite gotten its head around is that plenty of them didn’t like it, maintain a comfortable hypocrisy around their ability to procure it without penalty, and would like their children to use less of it than they did.

I also think there’s some wishful thinking among advocates that the experiment with medical marijuana and quasi-legalization has eased Californians’ fears, or that they would prefer outright legalization to the wink-and-nod around the medical marijuana regime. Again, this is a place where since no one can craft a forceful, emotional argument that legalization is superior to casual users free-riding on the suffering of actual patients, the emotional brutalism of the No campaign is likely to gain more traction.

I’ll certainly vote in favor of legalization, and I encourage our vast and influential readership to do so as well. (Hey there!) But I suspect that it will poll between tied and slightly in favor for most of the lead-up and will finally lose by a small margin. I would love to be proven wrong.

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