The war to end the war on pot 2016 ­— Sitrep 2

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Paul Danish/Sue France

Here’s the latest situation report from the war to end the war on marijuana.

First the good news.

Since the first of the year, the polling has been going our way.
In New Mexico, a poll taken by Research & Polling Inc. for the Drug Policy Alliance found 61 percent support for legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana sales to those age 21 and older.

Support rose to 69 percent when pollsters indicated that tax revenues would be used to fund health-related programs.

In Virginia, a Virginia Commonwealth University poll found 62 percent of those polled strongly or somewhat agreed that recreational use of marijuana should be legalized. Almost 8 of 10 respondents favored reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of pot to a $100 fine from a misdemeanor.

In Maryland, a poll done by Gonzalez Research & Marketing Strategies for the Marijuana Policy Project found 53 percent support for allowing “marijuana to be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol” for use by adults aged 21 and older.

In Florida, a poll done by Public Policy Polling found 65 percent of those surveyed favored amending the state constitution to legalize medical marijuana. The amendment needs a 60 percent supermajority to pass.

In Vermont, a Vermont Public Radio poll found 55 percent support for legalization of recreational pot.

In Utah, a poll conducted by Survey USA for the Salt Lake Tribune found 61 percent support for medical marijuana, a 10 percentage point increase from a year earlier.

In California, a poll by Probolsky Research found nearly 60 percent of likely voters would definitely or probably support marijuana legalization. Backers of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalization initiative have petitions in the field and appear to have already collected 25 percent of the signatures they need to get on the ballot.

The State Senates in Vermont and Utah have been responsive to public opinion on pot in their states; the New Mexico State Senate not so much.

The Vermont State Senate has passed a legalization bill and sent it to the State House, where its fate is said to be uncertain. The measure has the strong support of the governor, however.

The Utah State Senate has passed two bills to legalize medical marijuana, albeit relatively weak ones. One legalizes CBD products with only minor amounts of THC in them. The other allows products with both THC and CBD in them, but limits the illnesses for which the ones with THC can be used. Still, passage of the measures in a state as socially conservative as Utah is little short of mind-boggling.

Now for the bad news.

In New Mexico, the State Senate killed a measure that would have put a proposal to legalize recreational pot on the State’s November ballot as a state constitutional amendment. The vote was 24-17. New Mexico doesn’t allow citizen initiatives; only the legislature can put measures on the ballot.

A nastier setback occurred in Maine, where a recreational legalization initiative sponsored by The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Maine was denied a place on the ballot after the Maine Secretary of State disqualified petitions containing 17,000 signatures ­— not because there was anything wrong with the signatures on the petitions but because the signature of the single Notary Public that had notarized the petitions did not precisely match his/her signature on a document that had been filed with the state five years ago. The petition sponsors say they will ask a court to reverse the decision.

This is exactly the sort of thing that is causing millions of Americans to conclude (not unreasonably) that politicians are corrupt and the system is rigged.

Maine’s Secretary of State is Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat. If his decision isn’t reversed in court, the Maine Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol should devote the energy and resources it otherwise would have devoted to passing the initiative to extracting him from office.