Pubdate: Fri, 24 Aug 2001
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2001 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Dennis Cauchon


Support for legalizing marijuana is at its highest level in more
than 30 years, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll.

The poll found that 34% favor legalizing marijuana use while 62%
oppose. That's the most support for legalization since pollsters began
asking the question in 1969.

Support for legalization had been constant at about 25% for 20 years
before the USA TODAY poll recorded a rise to 31% in August 2000 and
34% earlier this month.

"We are literally winning the hearts and minds of the American
people," says Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for
the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

He says the government's opposition to letting doctors prescribe
marijuana for pain relief and nausea has helped legalization efforts.

"The longer they fight this battle, the more progress we make," Stroup
says. "Americans rethink their position on marijuana when they see a
government disinterested in helping dying patients."

But Robert Hussey, executive director of the California Narcotics
Officers' Association, says the fight against legalizing marijuana --
for medical or recreational use -- is still worth waging. "We have
enough legal drugs out there. We don't need another one," he says.

Hussey agrees that medical marijuana has given momentum to
legalization advocates. "They've chosen this issue to get their
message out," he says. "We haven't been able to get our message out."

Voters in eight states have approved medical marijuana initiatives.
Polls show that more than 70% support medical marijuana.

Polls in Canada and England show that half of their populations now
supports legalizing marijuana.

Legalization opponents say marijuana is dangerous and can lead to
harder drugs. Legalization advocates disagree and say 700,000 annual
marijuana arrests do more harm than good.

The USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll found that support for legalization is
highest among 18- to 49-year-olds, people in the West and independent
voters. Opposition was greatest among the elderly, regular churchgoers
and Republicans.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek