Pubdate: Mon, 25 Feb 2013
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2013 The Des Moines Register
Author: Tony Leys


The Idea Is Still Backed by a Majority, but the Size Has Shrunk Since 
2010. Allowing Recreational Use Is Still Solidly Opposed.

More than half of Iowans favor allowing sick people to use marijuana 
as medicine, but the idea is not as popular as it used to be, 
according to The Des Moines Register's latest Iowa Poll.

But a large, steady majority of Iowans disapprove of allowing people 
to smoke marijuana just to get high.

The survey found that 58 percent of Iowa adults support legalizing 
medical marijuana. That's down 6 percentage points from a similar 
poll question posed in 2010. Only 29 percent of Iowans support 
allowing recreational use of the drug, up a point from three years ago.

Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical 
marijuana, which proponents say can ease pain, nausea and other 
symptoms of diseases such as cancer. Voters in Colorado and 
Washington state also have approved recreational marijuana under 
certain conditions. But Iowa appears unlikely to join them soon. A 
medical marijuana bill died in an Iowa House subcommittee last month. 
A similar bill is pending in the Senate, but House leaders and the 
governor have indicated they oppose the idea, which opponents say 
would open the door wider to drug abuse.

The issue has been kicked around the Statehouse for years. But it has 
failed to gain traction, even after the Iowa Pharmacy Board in 2010 
recommended reclassifying marijuana in a way that could make it legal 
for medical purposes.

The poll, conducted by Selzer & Co. of West Des Moines, comprised 802 
Iowa adults interviewed Feb. 3-6. The margin of error is plus or 
minus 3.5 percentage points.

Poll participant Cato Allsup, 65, of Winthrop has mixed feelings on 
the subject. He acknowledges that marijuana could help a few people 
with medical problems. But he worries that allowing its distribution 
for such uses would quickly lead to abuse.

"How many of those people are going to take it and sell it to support 
their little habits?" he said. "If a doctor says a person needs it, 
they need to find a way to make sure it's used for that purpose and 
that purpose only."

Allsup, who retired on disability from construction work, is firmly 
against giving blanket permission to use marijuana for fun. "Then 
you'd have a bunch of dopeheads out on the highway killing people," he said.

Tara Roberts, 51, of Ottumwa would be OK with letting Iowans use 
marijuana for whatever purpose they want.

"We legalized alcohol. To me, somebody who's drunk is worse than 
somebody who's on marijuana any day," she said. "When somebody's 
under the influence of alcohol, there's more fights, there's more 
domestic abuse."

Roberts, who said she has worked in health care, said she believes 
marijuana could help many people deal with pain with fewer side 
effects than narcotic pills bring.

Roseann Wilson, 60, of Dubuque is leery of allowing marijuana use.

"Part of me would like to legalize it and tax the heck out of it, but 
part of me sees it as the gateway drug" leading users to more 
dangerous drugs, said Wilson, who owns a car dealership.

She's skeptical of the argument that the drug could be reserved for 
medical purposes. "That seems like it's kind of tap-dancing around 
the issue," she said.

She added that her views are affected by what she saw around her when 
she was younger. "I didn't know anybody who smoked a lot of pot who 
ever amounted to much."

Luke Goodell, 35, of Hubbard is skeptical, too. "We can't even 
control drunken driving, let alone the idea of people smoking pot and 
driving," said Goodell, who works at an ethanol plant. If medical 
marijuana was approved, he said, "it would have to be tightly 
controlled, not like they have out in California, where you can go in 
and get marijuana for any old complaint."

The poll shows that Iowans' stances on the issue vary by age. For 
example, 68 percent of adults younger than 35 support legalizing 
marijuana for medical purposes, compared with 58 percent of people 
ages 35 through 54 and 49 percent of people 55 or older.

When asked about legalizing the drug for recreational purposes, 47 
percent of those younger than 35 support the idea, compared with 28 
percent of people ages 35 through 54 and 16 percent of those 55 or older.

The poll results also reflect partisan differences. Seventy-five 
percent of Iowa Democrats support legalizing medical marijuana, 
compared with 39 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of political 
independents. Forty-three percent of Iowa Democrats favor legalizing 
marijuana for recreational purposes, compared with 18 percent of 
Republicans and 29 percent of independents.

Mark Tvert, a spokesman for the national Marijuana Policy Project, 
said poll results often vary depending on how the question is phrased.

For example, if a pollster asks simply if marijuana should be 
legalized, many people are likely to say no, he said.

"When you say, 'Legalize marijuana and sell it in regulated stores,' 
" support tends to rise dramatically, he said.

Tvert, who lives in Denver, helped lead the successful campaign to 
have Colorado voters approve recreational marijuana last year, 12 
years after they approved medical marijuana. Although some of the 
medical marijuana dispensaries caused controversy, Tvert said they 
were better regulated and more accepted than similar businesses were 
in California. After a while, he said, many Colorado residents 
decided marijuana was not a big deal, so they agreed to legalize it, 
regulate it and tax it.

Tvert said supporters realize that some states will take much longer 
than others to legalize marijuana, even for medical purposes. But he 
said the momentum is shifting. "People just do not think we should be 
criminalizing sick people for improving their quality of life by 
using marijuana."

Steve Lukan, Iowa's drug control policy director, said the decline in 
enthusiasm for legalizing medical marijuana here is probably due to 
reports about how the drug was widely prescribed for minor ailments 
in states that legalized it.

"The medical marijuana laws, unfortunately, became a bit of a joke," he said.

Lukan also noted that although marijuana is the most used illicit 
drug in Iowa, it is not as popular here as it is in other states. A 
federal survey in 2009-10, for example, found that 14 percent of 
young Iowa adults had smoked marijuana in the previous month, 
compared with 18 percent nationally.

Lukan, a former GOP state legislator, said he doubted the issue would 
go far at the Statehouse soon. He noted that many states that have 
legalized use of the drug have done so through citizen ballot 
initiatives, which Iowa doesn't have.

Tvert, the marijuana legalization activist, said some state 
legislatures have voted to approve use of the drug, and governors, 
including a few Republicans, have signed those bills.

Tvert said proponents expect many other states to approve the 
practice over time, as they see it working in their neighboring states.


About the poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted Feb. 3-6 for The Des Moines Register by 
Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on interviews with 802 Iowans 
ages 18 or older. Interviewers contacted households with randomly 
selected landline and cellphone numbers. Responses were adjusted 
byage and sex to reflect the general population based on recent census data.

Questions based on the sample of 802 Iowa adults have a maximum 
margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means 
that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the 
same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary 
from the percentages shown here by more than plus or minus 3.5 
percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents - 
such as by gender or age - have larger margins of error.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines 
Register is prohibited.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom