Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2010
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2010 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Greg Risling


Opposition Prevalent Among Women, Republicans

LOS ANGELES - Most Americans still oppose legalizing marijuana, but 
larger majorities think pot has medical benefits and the government 
should allow its use for that purpose, according to an Associated 
Press-CNBC poll released today.

Respondents were skeptical that crime would spike if marijuana is 
decriminalized or that it would lead more people to harder drugs like 
heroin or cocaine. There also was a nearly even split on whether the 
government spends too much or the right amount enforcing marijuana 
laws. Almost no one thinks too little is spent.

Marijuana use - medically and recreationally - is getting more 
attention in the political arena. California voters will decide in 
November whether to legalize the drug, and South Dakota will vote 
this fall on whether to allow medical uses. California and 13 other 
states already permit such use.

The balloting comes against the backdrop of the Obama administration 
saying it won't target marijuana dispensaries if they comply with 
state laws, a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, 
which sought to more stringently enforce the federal ban on marijuana 
use for any purpose.

In the poll, only 33 percent favor legalization while 55 percent 
oppose it. People under 30 were the only age group favoring 
legalization (54 percent) and opposition increased with age, topping 
out at 73 percent of those 65 and older. Opposition also was 
prevalent among women, Republicans and those in rural and suburban areas.

Some opponents worried legalization would lead to reefer madness.

"I think it would be chaos if it was legalized," said Shirley 
Williams, a 75-year-old retired English teacher from Quincy, Ill. 
"People would get in trouble and use marijuana as an excuse."

Those like Jeff Boggs, 25, of Visalia, Calif., who support 
legalization said the dangers associated with the drug have been overstated.

"People are scared about things they don't know about," said Boggs, 
who is married and works for an auto damage appraisal company.

Americans are more accepting of medical marijuana. Sixty percent 
support the idea and 74 percent think the drug has a real medical 
benefit for some people. Two-thirds of Democrats favor medical 
marijuana as do a slim majority of Republicans, 53 percent.

Peoples' views on legalizing marijuana or on allowing its use for 
medicinal purposes were largely uniform across different regions of 
the country, despite the fact that legal medical marijuana use is 
concentrated in the West.

Bill Hankins, 77, of Mason, Mich., opposes legalizing marijuana, but 
strongly favors using the drug medicinally. Michigan is among the 
states that allow medical pot.

"It has been shown through tests to alleviate pain in certain medical 
conditions," said Hankins, who said he experimented with pot when he 
was younger. If Hankins fell gravely ill and "my doctor said I should 
have it to control the pain, I would use it," he said.

California was the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, 
and has been the hub of the so-called "Green Rush" to legalize marijuana.

But a patchwork of local laws in the state has created confusion 
about the law and lax oversight led to an explosion of medical 
marijuana dispensaries in some places.

In Los Angeles, the number of dispensaries exploded from four to 
upward of 1,000 in the past five years. Police think some were 
nothing but fronts for drug dealers to sell marijuana to people who 
have no medical need, and the city recently adopted an ordinance to 
reduce that number to 70 in coming months.

Among those surveyed, 45 percent said the cost of enforcing existing 
laws is too high and 48 percent said it's about right. Democrats, men 
and young people were most apt to say the cost is exorbitant.

With state and local governments desperate for cash, some 
legalization proponents are pushing marijuana as a potential revenue 
stream. But only 14 percent of those surveyed who oppose legalization 
would change their mind if states were to tax the drug.

John Lovell, a spokesman with the California Narcotics Officers' 
Association, said he wasn't surprised by the poll results because 
people already are aware of widespread abuse of legal prescription 
drugs and alcohol.

"Given that reality, we don't need to add another mind-altering 
substance that compromises people's five senses," Lovell said.

The AP-CNBC Poll was conducted April 7-12 by GfK Roper Public Affairs 
and Media. It involved interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide on 
landlines and cell phones. It had a margin of sampling error of plus 
or minus 4.3 percentage points.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart