Pubdate: Wed, 31 Mar 2004
Source: Seven Days Vermont (Burlington, VT)
Copyright: 2004 Seven Days Vermont
Author: Peter Freyne
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


A just-released Zogby International Poll sponsored by the Washington,
D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project -- -- shows incredibly
strong support among Vermonters for passage of medical marijuana
legislation this year.

According to the statewide poll, 71 percent support allowing the sick
and dying to legally benefit from the medicinal properties of cannabis.

The telephone poll of 502 randomly selected Vermonters was conducted
March 19-22 by Zogby, one of the nation's most respected polling outfits.

Last year, a medical marijuana bill easily swept through the Vermont
Senate on a 22-7 bipartisan vote. Five Republicans, including the
Senate GOP leader, Sen. John Bloomer, and Sens. Phil Scott, Bill
Doyle, Dick Greenwood and Rob Ide supported it.

As far as we know, none of them has since gone to Hell.

Since 99 out of every 100 marijuana arrests in America are made under
state laws, the Senate believed changing Vermont's pot law will "have
the practical effect of protecting from arrest the vast majority of
seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marijuana."

But with the blessing of House Speaker Walter Freed, S.76 has been
bottled up in the House Health and Welfare Committee ever since. Given
the fact that our straight-arrow Republican governor Jim Douglas
strongly opposes the legislation, the House leadership appears intent
on never letting it reach the Guv's desk.

Douglas' Democratic opponent, Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, told
Seven Days that as governor he'd "sign a medical marijuana bill in a
heartbeat." According to Mayor Moonie, "Vermonters with a
life-threatening illness should not face arrest because of an
irrational state policy."

Clavelle's hardly alone. On Town Meeting Day, 82 percent of Queen City
voters supported a medical pot advisory question.

Rarely, if ever, do 82 percent of the voters support anything. The
landslide "yes" vote for the medical marijuana question was enough to
change the position of Burlington State Rep. Bill Keogh. However, the
moderate Democrat from Burlington's South End told Seven Days this
week, "The bill is not moving at this time."

Rep. Keogh said Tuesday that even with his switch, the vote in the
House Health and Welfare Committee "is 6-5 against bringing up the
medical marijuana bill."

Statewide, the new Zogby Poll found that 71 percent of Vermonters
support legalizing medical marijuana. Broken down by party, the pot
bill has the support of 85 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of
Independents and 50.3 percent of Republicans. That's right, a majority
of folks who call themselves Republican support medical marijuana!

One of the more interesting poll questions: "If Gov. Douglas signs the
bill  would you be more or less likely to vote for him, or would
this make no difference in your vote?"

About two-thirds of those polled said it won't change their vote for
governor. However, 22.5 percent of Democrats said they would be more
likely to vote for Jim Douglas if he signed the bill. In a 2004
gubernatorial election that promises to be a squeaker, attracting
Democrat defectors has to be a top priority for Jimmy D. That's
because even if every Republican in Vermont votes for him, he'll still
be well short of the 50 percent threshold.

Far be it from this writer to give advice to our beloved governor,
but, hey, Jimbo, wake up, will ya? It's the 21st century!

If the medical pot bill dies because you oppose it, Clavelle the
Democrat will have just one more flaming arrow in his political
campaign quiver. Mayor Moonie will paint you as a right-wing, John
Ashcroft-style conservative extremist who lacks compassion for the
sick and dying. And he'll have the poll data to prove you're out of
touch with the people of your state. Hello?

Signing legislation supported by a majority of Republicans, Democrats
and Independents simply does not have a downside. It would show
Vermont voters you're not really a Bush puppet. And it just might get
you enough Democrat and Independent votes to experience a second term
on the Fifth Floor.

P.S. The most interesting question in the Vermont Zogby Poll was the
one dealing with public perception. Despite landslide support for
legalizing medicinal marijuana, most respondents greatly
underestimated the strong support the legislation has among their neighbors.

Only 39.5 percent believe the majority of Vermonters support it. And
38.2 percent wrongly think the majority of Vermonters oppose it.

As Marijuana Policy Project Communi-cations Director Bruce Mirken put
it, "Clearly there's a divide between perception and reality."

Mirken was hard-pressed to explain why so many people who support
medical marijuana think so many of their neighbors do not.

"I can only theorize," Mirken told Seven Days. "I think to some degree
it may be a holdover from President Ronald Reagan's 'Just Say No' drug
policy in the 1980s."

Interesting, eh? 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake