Republican-Leaning Pollster Finds Americans Believe Alcohol To Be More Dangerous Than Pot

The myth of public support for marijuana prohibition continues to crumble. Rasmussen was identified as among the most Republican-biased pollsters, which meant they were mostly wrong about Romney leading Obama. However, if anything, that may indicate this latest poll from them underestimates public opinion wants reform in cannabis law, including outright legalization.

Americans Believe Alcohol To Be More Dangerous Than Pot

ASHBURY PARK, NJ — Twice as many Americans with an opinion say that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis, according to a nationwide Rasmussen telephone poll of 1,000 adults.

Fifty-one percent of respondents said that they believed that alcohol “is more dangerous” than marijuana. Only 24 percent of respondents believed that cannabis posed greater dangers than booze. Another 24 percent of respondents were undecided.

By gender, 54 percent of men said that alcohol was more dangerous than cannabis, versus 49 percent of women. Male respondents between the ages of 40 and 64 were most likely (57 percent) to say that cannabis was less harmful than booze.

Overall, respondents were evenly divided on the question of whether cannabis should be legalized. Forty-five percent of those surveyed answered affirmatively and forty-five percent opposed the idea. (Ten percent were undecided.) Male respondents (51 percent) were far more likely to support legalization than females (39 percent). Male respondents also were more likely than women to admit to having consumed cannabis. According to the survey, 15 percent of men versus only six percent of women acknowledged having “smoked marijuana within the past year.”

A majority of respondents believed that cannabis policy is best left up to the individual states. Sixty percent of those surveyed said that state governments “should decide whether marijuana is legal in a state.” Only 27 percent of those surveyed said that this decision should be left up to the federal government.

The Rasmussen survey was conducted on November 9 and 10. The survey results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

A May 2012 Rasmussen telephone poll reported that 58 percent of Americans believe that the personal use of marijuana should no longer be a criminal offense, and that 56 percent of Americans think the substance ought to be legalized like alcohol.

Drug War: Preparing to Abandon Policy of Utter Failure

Latin America Looks to Europe for Drug Fighting Models

CADIZ, Spain (Reuters) - Latin American countries are turning to Europe for lessons on fighting narcotics abuse after souring on the prohibition-style approach of the violent and costly U.S.-led war on drugs.

Until recently, most Latin American countries had zero-tolerance rules on drugs inspired by the United States.

But now countries from Brazil to Guatemala are exploring relaxing penalties for personal use of narcotics, following examples such as Spain and Portugal that have channeled resources to prevention rather than clogging jails.

Latin America is the top world producer of cocaine and marijuana, feeding the huge demand in the United States and Europe. Domestic drug use has risen and drug gang violence has caused carnage for decades from the Mexican-U.S. border to the slums of Brazil.

On Thursday, Uruguay's Congress moved a step closer to putting the state in charge of distributing legal marijuana. On the same day a leftist lawmaker in Mexico presented a bill to legalize production, sale and use of marijuana.

While the Mexican bill is unlikely to pass, it reflects growing debate over how to fight drug use in a country where 60,000 people have died since 2006 in turf battles between drug traffickers and clashes between cartels and security forces.

Even top world cocaine producer Colombia, a stalwart U.S. partner in drug crop eradication campaigns and with one of the toughest anti-drug laws in Latin America, is hinting at change.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday it was worth exploring the Portuguese model, one of the most liberal drug policies in the world.

"The experience that you have had with drug consumption policies is very interesting to us. The entire world is looking for new ways to deal with the problem. I hope to learn more and more about the experience you have had," he said on a visit to Lisbon.

Santos stopped in Portugal on his way to the Ibero-American summit in the Spanish city of Cadiz. Leaders there on Saturday called for analyzing a shift toward regulating drug use rather than criminalizing it.

Portugal decriminalized all drug use in 2001 to combat a serious heroin problem that had caused an outbreak of HIV/Aids among drug users. The shift has been hailed as a success story as consumption levels dropped below the European average.

"The positive evaluation of Portugal's model has taken away the fear in Latin America over reforms," said Martin Jelsma of the Transnational Institute, which advocates the liberalization of drug laws in Latin America.

Spain - where drug consumption soared in the 1980s after the end of the Franco dictatorship - has tried to fight high cocaine use by emphasizing treatment programs for addicts and declining to prosecute possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

Jelsma said cannabis initiatives such as Uruguay's have built on the experience in Catalonia and the Basque Country, in northern Spain, where the courts tolerate marijuana cultivation for personal use by members of social clubs.


U.S. elections on November 6, when Colorado and the state of Washington legalized cannabis in defiance of federal laws, sharpened frustration among Latin American leaders.

"While in our countries a peasant is persecuted and jailed for growing half a those two U.S. states now you can simply grow industrial amounts of marijuana and sell them with complete liberty. We cannot turn a blind eye to this huge imbalance," Mexican President Felipe Calderon told the Ibero-American summit on Saturday.

Calderon, whose military crackdown on drug cartels set off an orgy of violence in Mexico, expressed fatigue with calling on the United States and Europe to curtail drug use, saying U.S. drug consumers alone fuelled Mexico's drug war to the tune of $20 billion a year.

He said the legalization of pot in Colorado and Washington marked a paradigm shift.

"We have to ask what alternatives there are. Perhaps less money and less appetite would be generated if there was another way to regulate drugs," he said.

Ibero-American Secretary-General Enrique Iglesias said there was consensus in Latin America that the so-called war on drugs was not working, and called for new approaches to the problem.

Colombia, Peru and Bolivia produce the bulk of the world's cocaine. Mexico and Paraguay are the two biggest marijuana producers in the world, with the latter largely supplying its neighbors Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

The shift in Latin America thinking on drugs dates to a 2009 report by the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico who said that billions of dollars poured into four decades of U.S.-led crop eradication efforts had merely pushed drug growing from one region to another.

Calderon's speech in Cadiz was just the latest in a growing chorus of challenges to U.S. drug policies.

At a summit of American leaders in April, U.S. President Barack Obama faced vocal doubts from his southern counterparts over anti-drug policies.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez has openly proposed decriminalizing certain drugs. Guatemala, Mexico's neighbor to the south, has been torn apart by drug violence and corruption by narcos has deeply penetrated government institutions.

Ten years ago the United States might have reacted with alarm to the shift in Latin America. But Obama's administration has refrained from openly criticizing changes in drug laws, partly because U.S. attitudes are also in flux.


Spain was long a gateway for South American cocaine into Europe, although experts suggest cocaine trafficking is now moving through southeastern and eastern Europe, along Balkan routes and into harbors in Latvia and Lithuania.

The European drug monitoring agency EMCDDA said in its annual report cocaine seizures in Europe peaked at 120 metric tons in 2006 and had declined since to 61 metric tons in 2010.

Spain remains the country that reports the highest number of cocaine seizures but they have also fallen there as authorities stepped up policing of the southern coast.

Still, Spain is concerned over the potential for Latin American traffickers to set up European operations on its territory.

In August, Spanish police arrested four members of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, one of world's biggest criminal organizations. One of them is a cousin of Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, the head of the cartel and Mexico's most wanted man.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Avarenga and Axel Bugge in Lisbon; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Copyright Reuters 2012


Uruguay Marijuana Legalization Bill Allows Home Grows and Sales

Uruguay Marijuana Legalization Bill Allows Home Grows and Sales

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY — A Uruguayan bill that would create a system of state-licensed marijuana sales and commercial cultivation was presented to Congress Wednesday, and, according to Reuters, includes a provision that will allow Uruguayans to grow their own at home or in clubs.

The use and possession of small amounts of marijuana is already legal in Uruguay, but President Jose Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla leader, has said he wants to see the measure passed in a bid to undermine drug-smuggling gangs and other criminality in a region buffeted by prohibition-related violence.

Unlike earlier news reports, which spoke of a state monopoly on marijuana cultivation and sales, the bill introduced Wednesday says only that the government will manage and regulate commercial cultivation and sales. Whether it will actually open state-run pot farms or marijuana retail outlets is yet to be decided, but in either case, a National Cannabis Institute will be in charge.

“The idea is to grant licenses for production, distribution, storage and for retail. We haven’t said whether that will be done by the private or public sector, the government will decide that,” Sebastian Sabini, a ruling party lawmaker who heads a congressional committee on drugs and addiction, told Reuters.

Under the pending legislation, each household could grow up to six plants or possess up to 480 grams, or slightly more than a pound. People could also join “smoking clubs” with up to 15 members and grow six plants per member, up to an annual production of 15.8 pounds. Marijuana users who wanted to buy through state-operated or — regulated facilities would be limited to purchasing 40 grams (just under 1 ½ ounces) per month.

Because Uruguay is a parliamentary democracy and because Mujica and his political allies control both houses of Congress, the bill is expected to be approved sometime next year.

Marijuana Legalization: What Can, and What Will, the Feds Do?

WASHINGTON, DC — In the wake of last week’s victories for marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, everyone is waiting to see how the federal government will respond. But early indications are that we may be waiting for awhile, and that the federal options are limited.

So far, the federal response has been muted. The White House has not commented, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has not commented, and the Department of Justice has limited its comments to observing that it will continue to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act.While the legal possession — and in the case of Colorado, cultivation — provisions of the respective initiatives will go into effect in a matter of weeks (December 6 in Washington and no later than January 5 in Colorado), officials in both states have about a year to come up with regulations for commercial cultivation, processing, and distribution. That means the federal government also has some time to craft its response, and it sounds like it’s going to need it.

“My understanding is that Justice was completely taken aback by this and by the wide margin of passage,” said Eric Sterling, former counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and currently the executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. “They believed this would be a repeat of 2010, and they are really kind of astonished because they understand that this is a big thing politically and a complicated problem legally. People are writing memos, thinking about the relationship between federal and state law, doctrines of preemption, and what might be permitted under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.”

What is clear is that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. In theory an army of DEA agents could swoop down on every joint-smoker in Washington or pot-grower in Colorado and haul them off to federal court and thence to federal prison. But that would require either a huge shift in Justice Department resources or a huge increase in federal marijuana enforcement funding, or both, and neither seems likely. More likely is selective, exemplary enforcement aimed at commercial operations, said one former White House anti-drug official.

“There will be a mixture of enforcement and silence, and let’s not forget that federal law continues to trump state law,” said Robert Weiner, former spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). “The Justice Department will decide if and at what point they will enforce the law, that’s a prosecutorial decision the department will make.”

Weiner pointed to the federal response to medical marijuana dispensaries in California and other states as a guide, noting that the feds don’t have to arrest everybody in order to put a chill on the industry.

“Not every clinic in California has been raided, but Justice has successfully made the point that federal law trumps,” he said. “They will have to decide where to place their resources, but if violations of federal law become blatant and people are using state laws as an excuse to flaunt federal drug laws, then the feds will have no choice but to come in.”

Less clear is what else, exactly, the federal government can do. While federal drug laws may “trump” state laws, it is not at all certain that they preempt them. Preemption has a precise legal meaning, signifying that federal law supersedes state law and that the conflicting state law is null and void.

“Opponents of these laws would love nothing more than to be able to preempt them, but there is not a viable legal theory to do that,” said Alex Kreit, a constitutional law expert at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego who co-authored an amicus brief on preemption in a now mooted California medical marijuana case. “Under the anti-commandeering principle, the federal government can’t force a state to make something illegal. It can provide incentives to do so, but it can’t outright force a state to criminalize marijuana.”

An example of negative incentives used to force states to buckle under to federal demands is the battle over raising the drinking age in the 1980s and 1990s. In that case, Congress withheld federal highway funds from states that failed to raise the drinking age to 21. Now, all of them have complied.

Like Weiner, Kreit pointed to the record in California, where the federal government has gone up against the medical marijuana industry for more than 15 years now. The feds never tried to play the preemption card there, he noted.

“They know they can’t force a state to criminalize a given behavior, which is why the federal government has never tried to push a preemption argument on these medical marijuana laws,” he argued. “The federal government recognizes that’s a losing battle. I would be surprised if they filed suit against Colorado or Washington saying their state laws are preempted. It would be purely a political maneuver, because they would know they would lose in court.”

The federal government most certainly can enforce the Controlled Substances Act, Kreit said, but will be unlikely to be able to do so effectively.

“The Supreme Court said in Raich and in the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club cases that the federal government has all the power in the world to enforce the Controlled Substances Act,” Kreit said, “and if they wanted to interfere in that way, they could. They could wait for a retail business or manufacturer to apply for a license, and as soon as they do, they could prosecute them for conspiracy — they wouldn’t even have to wait for them to open — or they could sue to enjoin them from opening,” he explained.

“But you can only stop the dam from bursting for so long,” Kreit continued. “In California, they were able to stop the dispensaries at the outset by suing OCBC and other dispensaries, and that was effective in part because there were so few targets, but at a certain point, once you’ve reached critical mass, the federal government doesn’t have the resources to shut down and prosecute everybody. It’s like whack-a-mole. The feds have all the authority they could want to prosecute any dispensary or even any patients, but they haven’t been effective in shutting down medical marijuana. They can interfere, but they can’t close everybody down.”

As with medical marijuana in California, so with legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington, Kreit said.

“My guess is that if the feds decided to prosecute in Colorado and Washington, it would go similarly,” he opined. “At first, they could keep people from opening by going after them, either enjoining or prosecuting them, but that strategy only works so long.”

“I think the career people in Justice will seek to block Colorado and Washington from carrying out the state regulatory regime of licensing cultivation and sales,” Sterling predicted. “A lower court judge could look at Raich and conclude that interstate commerce is implicated and that the issue is thus settled, but the states could be serious about vindicating this, especially because of the potential tax revenue and even more so because of the looming fiscal cliff, where the states are looking cuts in federal spending. The states, as defenders of their power, will be very different from Angel Raich and Diane Monson in making their arguments to the court. I would not venture to guess how the Supreme Court would decide this when you have a well-argued state’s 10th Amendment power being brought in a case like this.”

“Enjoining state governments is unlikely to succeed,” said Kreit. “Again, the federal government has taken as many different avenues as they can in trying to shut down medical marijuana, and yet, they’ve never argued that state laws are preempted. They know they’re almost certain to lose in court. The federal government can’t require states to make conduct illegal.”

At ground zero, there is hope that the federal government will cooperate, not complicate things.

“We’re in a wait and see mode,” said Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado and co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign. “It’s our hope that the federal government will work with Colorado to implement this new regulatory structure with adequate safeguards that make them comfortable the law will be followed.”

While that may seem unlikely to most observers, there is a “decent chance” that could happen, Vicente said. “Two mainstream states have overturned marijuana prohibition,” he said. “The federal government can read the polls as well as we can. I think they realize public opinion has shifted and it may be time to allow different policies to develop at the state level.”

The feds have time to come to a reasonable position, said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“There is no need for a knee-jerk federal response, since the states are not required to create a regulatory scheme quickly,” he said. “And while anti-marijuana forces more or less captured the drug czar’s office early in Obama’s first term, they’re at odds with other people in the White House and the Obama administration whose views may be closer to our own. I think the White House will be the key. It’s very likely that the fact that Attorney General Holder said nothing about the initiatives this fall, unlike two years ago, was because of the White House. I don’t mean the drug czar’s office; I mean the people who operate with respect to national politics and public policy.”

Sterling disagreed about who is running drug policy in the Obama administration, but agreed that the feds have the chance to do the right thing.

“Given the large indifference to drugs as an issue by the Obama administration, its studious neglect of the issue, its toleration of an insipid director of ONDCP, its uncreative appointment of Bush’s DEA administrator, it’s clear that nobody of any seniority in the Obama White House is given this any attention. Unless Sasha and Malia come home from school and begin talking about this, it won’t be on the presidential agenda, which means it will be driven by career bureaucrats in the DEA and DOJ,” he argued.

That’s too bad, he suggested, because the issue is an opportunity for bold action.

“They should respond in a vein of realism, which is that this is the future, the future is now,” he advised. “They have an opportunity with these two different approaches to work with the states, letting them go forward in some way to see how they work and providing guidance in the establishment of regulations that would let the states do this and ideally minimize the interstate spillover of cultivation and sales.”

“As part of that, they should ideally move to rewrite the Controlled Substances Act and begin working in the UN with other countries to revise the Single Convention on Narcotics. Our 100-year-old approach is now being rejected, not simply by the behavior of drug users, but by the voters, many of whom are not drug users,” Sterling said. “That would be a way that a wise, forward-thinking, statesman-like public official should respond.”

That would indeed be forward-thinking, but is probably more than can be reasonably expected from the Obama White House. Still, the administration has the opportunity to not pick a fight with little political upside, and it has time to decide what to do before the sky falls. Marijuana legalization has already happened in two states, and is an increasingly popular position. The federal government clearly hasn’t been in the lead and it’s not going to be able to effectively stop it; now, if it’s not ready to follow, it can least get out of the way.

66% of Americans Believe Marijuana Will Be Legal In Ten Years

NEW YORK, NY — Over 60 percent of Americans say that the possession and use of marijuana by adults will be legal within the decade, according an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll published last week of 1,002 randomly selected adults.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 66 percent of US respondents said that they expected cannabis to be legal within the next ten years.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said that they personally believed in legalizing cannabis.

Respondents in the Northeastern region of the United States expressed the highest level of support for legalizing marijuana (61 percent), while those in the South voiced the least level of support (51 percent). Nationally, 65 percent of those respondents between the ages of 18 to 34 favor legalization; only 49 percent of respondents age 35 and older did so.


Majority Says Feds Should Stay Out of Marijuana Legalization States

A slight majority of adults say the federal government should not attempt to enforce federal marijuana laws in states which have voted to legalize it, according to a new YouGov poll. Some 51% of respondents said the federal government should “exempt adults who follow state law from enforcement.”

The poll was conducted December 5 and 6 among 1,000 adults. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.4%.

The poll comes as the Obama administration ponders how to respond to last month’s passage of marijuana legalization measures Amendment 64 in Colorado and I-502 in Washington. While possession of up to an ounce by adults became legal last week in Washington and will become legal within weeks in Colorado, both states have a matter of months to come up with regulatory structures for commercial marijuana cultivation and distribution.

There has been speculation that the administration may attempt to block the regulatory and tax components on the initiatives, but this poll suggest little support for that among the public.

Fewer than one-third (30%) of respondents said the federal government should “enforce the drugs laws the same way it does in other states,” while an unusually high 20% of respondents were not sure.

This is the second poll this month to find a majority saying the question of legalization should be left to the states. A CBS News poll last week had 59% of respondents saying it should be up to the states.

Like the YouGuv poll, this poll had only about one-third (34%) saying it should be up to the federal government.

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