Lately, new cracks appear in the facade of marijuana prohibition on an almost daily basis, and this week is certainly no exception.
On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, undoubtedly aware of recent polls that show a solid majority -- 56 percent -- of Californians supporting the legalization of marijuana, called for an open debate on the issue, while still maintaining he doesn't personally support such a policy.
Then on Wednesday, in what is apparently the first reputable national poll to ever show a majority supporting legalization, results were released for a Zogby poll commissioned by the conservative-leaning O'Leary Report which indicate 52 percent of Americans nationwide agreeing with the statement "it makes sense to tax and regulate" marijuana.
The Significance of Arnie
Schwarzenegger's Tuesday statement did receive a ton of press (it's
unusual for a sitting governor to speak this openly on prohibition), it
was really quite mild in terms of what was actually said.
I think it's not time for [legalization], but I think it's time for a
debate," Schwarzenegger said, according to UPI. "I think all of those
ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it.
And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are
doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it
have on those countries?"
|Ah, the '70s. Future Governor Schwarzenegger conducts a little marijuana research of his own as depicted in the documentary Pumping Iron.|
governor's statement, in view of polls showing majority support for pot
legalization in California, doesn't represent much political risk. In
fact, it's yet another example of politicians following rather than
leading in the debate over prohibition.
Arnie got in hot water in 2007 when he pronounced marijuana "a leaf, not a drug" during a GQ magazine interview. His spokespeople later claimed the governor was "joking."
history has shown that on this subject, historically perceived as
fraught with political peril, public opinion usually precedes political
will by months or even years.
First National Majority For Legalization
the groundswell of support goes beyond California, as was shown by the
Zogby poll that was released just one day after Schwarzenegger's
statement to the press.
other recent polls, including ones taken by Gallup and ABC/Washington
Post, show marijuana legalization support in the mid-40s nationally,
the new Zogby numbers represent a significant milestone -- for the
first time ever, a national majority voicing support for the concept of
The survey polled a sample of
3,937 voters nationwide, weighted to match the 2008 presidential
outcome -- 54 percent Obama supporters and 46 percent McCain voters.
Voters were asked: "Scarce law enforcement and prison resources, a
desire to neutralize drug cartels and the need for new sources of
revenue have resurrected the topic of legalizing marijuana. Proponents
say it makes sense to tax and regulate the drug while opponents say
that legalization would lead marijuana users to use other illegal
drugs. Would you favor or oppose the government's effort to legalize
According to executive director
Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., "the
public is way ahead of the politicians on this." Kampia called
marijuana prohibition a "disastrously failed policy" and called public
support for legalization "strong and growing."