A new Rasmussen poll indicates that 61 percent of likely voters in Colorado would favor the legalization of marijuana if it were subject to similar regulations put on alcohol and cigarettes. Only 27 percent of likely voters oppose legalization even with government regulation. These findings are the latest in a trend of recent indicators suggesting that the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana is becoming a majority opinion throughout the United States. This poll is especially significant as Colorado is a swing state, and Obama’s respect for states’ rights has been far from impressive.
Connecticut and New Jersey have both made important steps towards decriminalizing marijuana possession, and Governor Cuomo has expressed sympathy with similar policies. Thirteen states, including Colorado, already have decriminalization policies in place for varying amounts of marijuana. Last year marked the first time that support for legalizing marijuana use passed 50 percent in the United States.
A policy that would legalize marijuana and subject it to ‘sin taxes’ similar to those put on alcohol and tobacco would save a huge amount of money. Jeffry Miron estimates that such a policy would save the government close to $43 billion it implemented nationally. Alcohol prohibition ended during times of economic depression, and it looks like an increasing number of legislators are beginning to see how much money is wasted on the War on Drugs. However, in national level politics marijuana policy is rarely ever debated.
The poll is especially significant as Colorado is a swing state in this year’s election cycle. While many marijuana activists supported Obama in 2008 thinking that he might relax the War on Drugs and respect states’ rights on the issue, the reality has been very different. To those that vote solely on the issue of sensible marijuana policy 2012 offers few options. The President has done a great job of alienating natural allies who are now more sympathetic to the states’ rights rhetoric offered by the Republicans. Although it is hard to know how many Colorado voters vote on this one issue, the poll is at least indicative of a nation-wide shift in attitude towards marijuana legalization. As per usual the two major parties are proving to be the last to catch on to public opinion.