Tahlequah Daily Press

Get the scoop!

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
Get the scoop!
  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 14, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 14, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 14, 2014

  • Cherokee Nation launches online art database

    Cherokee Nation officials have launched a new website providing the public access to information regarding art owned by the tribe and its businesses.
    “We have hundreds of traditional and modern works of art in our collection across the Cherokee Nation’s governmental and businesses facilities,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This expanded database is a significant accomplishment and now makes our art collection more accessible for various audiences, including artists, enthusiasts and tribal citizens.”

    April 14, 2014

  • mfp file Hoffner Fired coach unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    The president of Minnesota State University-Mankato accused a football coach of looking at Internet porn on a work computer before firing him, an arbitrator has revealed. The official said the claim could not be supported, and the coach shouldn't have been fired.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 11, 2014

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 11, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • mfp file Hoffner Big win for college coach wrongly accused of child porn

    The ex-coach of Minnesota State University-Mankato - cleared on child porn charges - gets his old job back or could take the difference in pay should he decide to stay in a new position in North Dakota, an arbitrator has ruled. Todd Hoffner was accused when a technician found videos of his young children on his school-issued cellphone. Officials in Mankato fired him even though a judge had thrown out the charges.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

    The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

    April 10, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Too much of a good thing at UConn?

    The Connecticut Huskies dominate women's college basketball - which makes for a boring game.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 10, 2014

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Stocks