The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

January 15, 2014

In major shift, Washington residents strongly support legalizing marijuana

WASHINGTON — Support for legalizing marijuana has expanded dramatically in the nation's capital, with residents who were split evenly on the issue four years ago now favoring sales of the drug for personal use by a margin of almost two to one, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Washingtonians of every age, race and ethnicity - black and white, teenage and elderly - registered double-digit increases in support for legalization. Overall, 63 percent are in favor.

Even among the 34 percent who oppose legalization, nearly half of them support relaxing punishment for marijuana possession to a fine of no more than $100.

The survey comes amid growing momentum across the country to legalize pot. This month, Colorado allowed the first sales of the drug for recreational use, and the state of Washington is preparing to follow suit.

Yet the poll places District of Columbia residents significantly to the left of a more closely divided nation. A new, separate Washington Post-ABC News national poll this week shows voters coast-to-coast split 49 percent to 48 percent on the issue. Other national polls have shown higher support for legalization in the past year, but none as high as in the District.

The numbers also come on the same day when a committee of D.C. lawmakers is expected to take the first major step in decades to loosen the city's marijuana laws by advancing a bill to reduce the city's penalty for possession of pot from $1,000 and six months in jail to a $25 civil fine.

 If passed by the full council, the token fine would amount to less than most city parking tickets and would run counter to federal penalties for simple possession of $1,000 and one year in jail, which could still be enforced on the National Mall and other federal properties within the District.

A band of District activists has also filed a ballot initiative that could put the broader question of legalization before city voters in November.

Majority support for legalization in the nation's capital, home to the federal law-enforcement agencies that most adamantly oppose it, could hasten the arrival on the East Coast of a debate that has largely simmered in western states. Ballot measures in Alaska, Arizona, California and Oregon this year could legalize marijuana in a contiguous, 1,800-mile swath stretching from the nation's border with Canada to Mexico.

"There's still a federal law that says it's a no-no, and yet states are starting to legalize it. In my lifetime, what's out West comes East. At this point, I think it's inevitable," said Richard Smith, a Northwest businessman who deals in scrap metal.

At 68, Smith is among the 38 percent of District senior citizens who support legalizing marijuana - up from just 26 percent in 2010. Smith says he simply no longer cares: "I argue with my kids all the time . . . My middle daughter, I know she smokes once in a while, but she makes good decisions. I told her to read books, books on prohibition, and you'll see where it's going."

The proposal before the D.C. Council would eliminate criminal penalties for possession, instead fining those violators $25, and allow for tickets of $100 for those caught smoking in public. Minors would also have a letter sent home to their parents.

The ballot initiative for which supporters would have to gather signatures to qualify for the November ballot would rival that in Colorado, allowing residents age 21 or older to possess as much as two ounces of marijuana for personal use and to grow up to three plants at home. The initiatve would also allow individuals to transfer, but not sell, up to one ounce of the drug, and it would permit the use and sale of paraphernalia. Because of federal oversight of District governance, the measure would have to go to Congress for review if passed.

The Post poll found that the dramatic expansion of support for legalization over the past four years was driven in part by a complete reversal of opinion among African Americans.

In 2010, 37 percent were in favor of legalization and 55 percent were opposed. Now, that number has flipped, with 58 percent of African Americans in favor and 39 percent opposed.

In the past, many older blacks have opposed legalization out of the fear that it could lead to addiction among black youths. Those fears are reflected in the poll. Just 40 percent of blacks age 50 and older favor legalization, compared with 73 percent for younger blacks. There is no such age difference on legalization among whites in the city.

But the overall change in opinion could reflect the recent effort by civil rights groups to call attention to the disproportionate arrest of African Americans on marijuana charges.

             

               

"I don't care one way or another about legalizing it," said Renee Matthews, 49, a resident who works as a receptionist at a teachers' organization downtown. "But it shouldn't be criminalized if the penalties are harder for African Americans."

Still, African American women are among the least likely to support legalization, with 51 percent in favor to 45 percent against.

 Chuquita Berry, a homemaker, said she opposes both legalization and attempts to lessen penalties because she fears a rise in impaired driving as well as "major negative impacts" on her neighborhood.

"The law needs to remain the same," said Berry, 34. "You could see the negative effects on children, teenagers, adults. It would create more of a problem."

African Americans aren't the only ones driving the trend. Their share of the city's population has fallen below 50 percent over the past four years.

 Since the 2010 census, the District's population has mushroomed by 45,000 people, a 7.4 increase, with many newcomers young and white. More than three-quarters of whites under age 40 favor legalization.

D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, is leading the council's first step toward decriminalizing marijuana in the bill expected to pass his public safety committee Wednesday.

Wells said he thinks it would be prudent to monitor the rollout of legalized marijuana in Colorado and elsewhere for at least a year before making a decision on whether the District should go the same route - a step that would likely set up a confrontation with Congress over the issue.

As it is, the $25 fine for possession would rank behind only Alaska as the most forgiving of the 17 states that have eliminated jail time for marijuana possession.

               

            

 

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 19, 2014

  • Kaiser joins Thunder ownership group

    Tulsa businessman George B. Kaiser has been approved by the NBA Board of Governors as a new partner in The Professional Basketball Club LLC, which owns the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thunder Chairman and CEO Clayton I. Bennett made the announcement Friday. Kaiser is purchasing the ownership interest of Tom L. Ward.
    “We are honored to welcome George Kaiser as a member of the ownership group of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Bennett said. “George is a well-respected and important Oklahoma business leader, as well as one of the state and nation’s top philanthropists. His commitment to successful business and community leadership is in true alignment with that of the Thunder.
    “I also appreciate the commitment and leadership provided by Tom Ward as a member of our ownership group from the beginning,” Bennett added.

    April 18, 2014

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 18, 2014

  • MS_injection well.jpg Agency clarifies earthquake-related misinformation

    A state agency says misinformation related to the debate about the cause of more earthquakes across Central Oklahoma includes oil well types, well numbers and injection pressure.
    The Prague sequence of 2011 along the Wilzetta Fault zone included a significant foreshock, a main shock of magnitude 5.7 and numerous aftershocks. It has been suggested that this sequence represents tremors triggered by fluid injection.
    More recently, earthquakes have been recorded in the vicinity of Jones, Arcadia Lake, Edmond, Guthrie, Langston and Crescent. Regulators and scientists are working together to better understand what’s causing all the shaking.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • New study counters pot legalization argument

    A new study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences, a researcher says.
    Researchers say the findings suggest recreational marijuana use may lead to previously unidentified brain changes and highlight the importance of research aimed at understanding the long-term effects of low to moderate marijuana use on the brain.

    April 15, 2014

  • Anita Hill.jpg Anita Hill reflects on her fateful testimony, 23 years later

    Back in 1993, I rounded a corner of a Laguna Beach, Calif., grocery store and walked straight into Anita Hill.
    We both stopped in our tracks. She looked slightly panicked, like someone had turned on a light in a room, and all she wanted was the door.
    It took a moment to register that this was the woman who, just two years before, calmly testified before a Senate committee about the sexual harassment she endured while working for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas  at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, of all places.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • jc_Erick Wyatt.JPG Norman man takes on challenge to unseat Inhofe

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of candidate profiles leading up to the 2014 Oklahoma elections.

    Erick Wyatt is running for U.S. Senate to be a strong voice of the people, he said. More than anything, Wyatt said he is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe for the sake of his children.
    The Norman Republican vows to represent the people’s interests instead of the interests of powerful political groups, Wyatt said.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140414_MALAYSIA_Bluefin.jpg In new phase to find Flight 370, search robot will enter ocean

    The pings have sputtered out in the multinational search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, forcing search crews to deploy an underwater robot to find a plane that’s eluded human efforts.
    In a last-ditch effort to find the Boeing 777 and its black box flight recorders, a U.S. Navy submersible vehicle will be used to scan an area in the southern Indian Ocean for debris.
    “We haven’t had a single detection in six days, so I guess it’s time to go underwater,” Angus Houston, who heads Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Center, told a news conference in that country’s western city of Perth on Monday.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 25801486.jpg VIDEO: Northern California bus crash kills 10

    At least nine people died in Northern California on Thursday night, in an accident involving a bus, a car and FedEx truck. The bus was filled with high school students from Southern California who were on their way to visit a college campus.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo