By Tracy Ryan – In a joint press conference on Thursday, the Drug Policy Action Group, the ACLU of Hawaii, and Q Mark Research released polling data concerning the possible legalization of marijuana.
Significant findings included 81% support for medical marijuana with 78% supporting the establishment of a dispensary system to facilitate medical usage.
The poll takers asked about support for both decriminalization and legalization. They defined decriminalization as changing the current criminal laws to civil violations subject to fines. They defined legalization as creating a regulated and taxed industry. They asked first about decriminalization and found it supported by 58% and opposed by 36%.
Legalization was favored by 57% and opposed by 40%. With a margin of error of about 4% it seems that people were simply saying yes to any reform that is offered as there was no significant difference between support for decriminalization and for legalization. Legalization without reference to taxes and regulations was not offered as an alternative by the poll takers.
Other questions showed strong support for either fines under decriminalization or for taxes under legalization to be earmarked towards the prevention of drug use, public education, and other popular ideas. Since these questions were asked subsequently to the direct questions on decriminalization and legalization it would seem that poll respondents would support reform with or without the suggested earmarks.
Two other findings included 65% of poll respondents agreeing that the war on drugs was too costly and that the position of a legislator on marijuana legalization was a vote moving issue for about 55% of respondents. In this last case 33% of respondents indicated a greater likelihood of supporting a candidate who favored reforming marijuana laws while 22% would be more likely to oppose such a candidate.
A second report was shared concerning the budgetary effects of either decriminalization or legalization. Obviously either change would reduce costs borne by law enforcement and allow more attention to other crimes. Either fines collected under decriminalization or taxes under legalization would have some improvement on State finances.
The study bore this out. The report based on the study did not seem to address the larger economic questions of total value added to the economy, effect on employment, protection of agricultural lands, and other issues that with the limited data and many variables may be too inchoate to estimate.
No specifics related to legislation were put forward. Those who wish to view the poll and study may find more information at http://acluhi.org/stats_marijuana_hawaii/
Tracy Ryan is the head of the president of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii