Poll Shows Majority Of Georgians Favor Legalizing Pot

January 21, 2014 13:00 pm

by Charlie · 14 comments

It looks like reefer madness in Georgia may be going mellow.

A new poll released today by Georgia NORML and Peachtree NORML claims that 54% of Georgians favor legalization of marijuana similar to Colorado and Washington State, while an even larger 62% believe possession of pot in amounts less than 1 oz should be de-criminalized, with violators instead paying a $100 civil fine.

Note again that this is Georgia voters.  Here.  In the Bible belt.

So I guess we’ll assume that PPP polls oversampled millennials?   Nope, they’re 9% of participants.  Two thirds of the participants in the poll were over the age of 45.

That’s a significant change in public opinion over the last decade, even here in Georgia.  And it is already starting to show up in policy.  The Governor’s criminal justice reform packages have specifically talked about the costs to taxpayers as well as the cost in future lost income for those with minor criminal charges on their “permanent record”.  Meanwhile, other states are starting to cultivate an industry which employs people, pays taxes, and draws tourists.  It appears some of Georgia’s voters are taking notice.

Of course, what matters in Georgia right now is how Republican voters feel.  We are a state with all Republican statewide elected officials and near super-majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.  These folks aren’t going to move quickly on something that they believe will cause them more trouble in a primary that it is worth.

The numbers don’t yet show a majority of Republicans favoring full legalization, but the numbers are frankly stronger than I would have thought.  On decriminalization, 56% of GOP voters approve of a civil offense for less than 1 oz of possession, with those who strongly favor (43%) or somewhat support (13%), as contrasted to the 39% who oppose being broken down into somewhat oppose (19%) and strongly oppose (20%).

But, when asked if participants favored lowering punishment for less than 1 oz of pot, the numbers drop to 52% support, and 41% opposed.  Still a slight majority, but softer strong support (34%).

48% of Republican voters favor legalization similar to Colorado and Washington State, with 37% strongly supporting.  50% are opposed with 38% strongly opposed.

The biggest problem in the poll for reform supporters is that 44% of GOP participants say they would be less likely to support a candidate who backs marijuana reform.  That’s less than the combination of those who say they would be more likely (23%) or wouldn’t make a difference (26%), but a candidate that governs by polls would say there’s a 44% downside and only a 23% upside on getting in front of this issue.

And yet, it’s clear where the momentum is on this issue.  Senator Josh McKoon and House Speaker David Ralston have both said they would like to study the science behind Medical Marijuana.  Rep Allen Peake, hardly a moderate squish, is already supportive of medical applications.  Four years ago, it’s unlikely any of this could have been said in respectable political circles.

In short, those supporting reforms can take heart in this poll which demonstrates that opinion is changing in their direction.  They also need to understand that there is significant work to do before “legalization” is anywhere near reality.

Their press release follows:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20th, 2014
62% of Georgia Voters Support Ending Criminal Penalties for Pot
Over Half Support Legalizing It For Adults

Atlanta, GA- A new statewide poll shows that 62% of Georgia voters endorse eliminating criminal
penalties for possession by adults of less than one ounce of pot, and replace it with a $100 civil fine,
without the possibility of jail time. Further, more than half of all Georgia voters now support
regulating the legal consumption and retail sale of marijuana for those age 21 and over. In 2012, voters
in Colorado and Washington approved similar regulations in their states.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) was commissioned by state affiliates of the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Georgia NORML, and Peachtree NORML.
“The citizens of Georgia agree, marijuana prohibition is a wasteful and destructive policy. It is time for
our state to catch up with public opinion and find a more sensible solution to the status quo,” said
Sharon Ravert, the organization’s Executive Director.

Peachtree NORML and other advocacy groups are working with lawmakers and various state coalition
groups to amend Georgia’s criminal marijuana laws. In 2010, some 32,500 Georgians were arrested for
violating marijuana laws, according to the FBI. That is the sixth highest total of any state in America.
Fifty-seven percent of voters supported legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. State
lawmakers have indicated interest in studying this legal option. Ravert welcomes the discussion but
believes that “this issue [medical marijuana] is complex,” and that the process could take years.

“Decriminalization, which received the highest level of support among those polled is a policy that
could be enacted immediately and would provide legal protection to not only patients but those unfairly
targeted by the current policy. This is not about getting high, this is about protecting sick people and
everyone else from arrest using a harm reduction strategy with public safety as a top priority.” The
organization has found support for medical cannabis as well as regulations models from several elected
officials.

In order to continue raising awareness for this issue, NORML affiliates around the state have teamed
up with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia to host a lobby day at the state
capitol on January 21st 2014. A press conference will begin at 1:00 pm, on the Washington Street side
of the capitol. Immediately following the press conference, the coalition plans to deliver 5000
signature and their recent poll results to the Governor.

Stefan January 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm

and a cheer went up from Decatur. Seriously though, if you care about taxpayer money, you should be in favor of decriminalization, if not outright legalization.

greencracker January 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Georgia legislators less favorable on harshing your mellow

@SaferSweets January 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm

62% of #Georgia Voters Support Ending Criminal Penalties for Pot
Over Half Support Legalizing It For Adults http://t.co/3vgLLW4bWC

Three Jack January 21, 2014 at 2:43 pm

It would be interesting to find out what the same people think about taxing it if/when legalized. Colorado jumped right out there with a 35% tax thus making the legal pot considerably more expensive than that which can easily be acquired in the illegal market.

Rick Day January 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I think we did good.

What was critical were the way the questions were worded. We cited the code on punishment with the question, which helped frame the issue tighter.

There was also great support for medical uses as well as ag hemp.

The reason why there were so few millennial in the poll was it was a land line poll, rare among the youngsters these days. You factor in that 80%+ young voter support, and you got a solid majority ready for reform.

We also dropped off a petition with over 15,000 signatures on it demanding reform to Gov. Deal. We also delivered the white paper and poll. About 100 activists wandered the halls today and did not meet with any real opposition to any of these issues from the open doors of the Lege.

It was a good day to be on the right side of an issue. Now, the dance starts. *cues music*

Jane January 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Before we allow wide spread use of a mind altering drug we need to consider the safe level at which one can use MJ and still be able to drive or even work. We also need to consider the effect of second hand smoke on people whose job makes it necessary to remain alert at all times, like bus drivers and truck drivers. Some jobs have a zero tolerance for Alcohol usage. A similar zero tolerance will be demanded if we legalize MJ. Allowing medical patients to take MJ in a pill form is one thing, allowing high school kids or school bus drivers to smoke before school is another.

Rick Day January 21, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Jane, you concerned parent!
1. Use is widespread already. It is time to tax and control it for an adult market.
2. I challenge the term both Mind Altering and drug. Spinning in a circle is mind altering. Alcohol is mind altering. Politics is mind melting. It is not a drug it is politically classed as one. It’s a garden flower not a demon weed.
3. Unfortunately studies can not do what you demand, determine a safe level. All they can show is that at reasonable amounts (that will not make you nap) cannabis is not unsafe.
Since they can’t prove harm (and they could they WOULD I guarantee!), that is good enough for me.
Take it from me, when it comes to machines and trucks and pilots, your fears are reduced to a tiny percentage of ‘people with issues’. And weed or not, people always got issues. It is what it is but it is not going to get worse. I predict DUI deaths will drop and less people rely on alcohol for the evening entertainment.
4. Pill or smoke, tincture, lollypop or vaporizer, it won’t matter. Zero Tolerance in other states does not protect patients from employment. Business should have the ability to make choices in hiring matters. And employees should be considered innocent of ‘abuse’ until workplace incidents trigger a test.

You act like we live in a pot vacuum and that this will all happen IF we take the route of reform. Let me clue you in on a secret: they are already around you, and have been for decades. They just know about your attitude and fear folks with your doubts will to the ‘right thing’ and call in a tip.

Driving home this evening, look around. There may be 50% of the cars with people who responsibly use cannabis hemp. Few of them are tokin’ that reefer now. Been that way a long time, Jane. A long time. Quit worrying, we know what we are doing :)

John Konop January 21, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Jane,

People drive over the speed limit should we ban driving? People drive while being intoxicated should ban beer, wine…? People jay walk should ban walking? Some guns have killed peole should we ban guns?

@EricTeusink January 21, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Sine Die on 4/20 this year? Majority of Georgians (near majority of GOP Voters) support pot decriminalization. #gapol
http://t.co/hYq5FkJsGL

Scott65 January 22, 2014 at 11:08 am

Hell you can go online to see how to roll a proper blunt…it aint that easy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0–wltzcts

sonofliberty January 22, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Our society has a dubious track record of keeping alcohol and prescription medications out of the hands of juveniles with their undeveloped immature brains; its not just an issue of decriminalization and filling the coffers with tax money……it’s an issue with many collateral consequences that thoughtful policy-makers need to work through before legalization.

Jane January 22, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I am not saying we should not consider decriminalization. I am saying “we need to consider the safe level at which one can use MJ and still be able to drive or even work. ” Drugs have always been a way to separate the winning and the losers in a society. That is fine, we just need a way to keep Shaggy from driving or living off the taxpayers. I feel the same way about smokers and people who drink in excess.

John Konop January 22, 2014 at 9:32 pm

In all due respect laws are already in place for driving while using drugs….

Three Jack January 23, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Please elaborate Jane. Can you point to specific evidence that ‘drugs (marijuana in this case) have always been a way to separate the winning and the losers’? Using this mindless idea, I guess you would consider the following folks to be losers:
Barack Obama
Willie Nelson
Bill Maher
Woody Harrelson
Pete Lewis (not sure if he was a user, but definitely not a loser as one of the leading fundraisers to decriminalize before his passing)
60% of NFL players
Ted Turner (oftern rumored to be a puffer)

There are many more who remain anonymous due to the stigma attached to pot smoking by people like you Jane. You really might be surprised.

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