The NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll’s finding that district voters support legalization by almost a 2-1 margin “is the highest support ever for a marijuana legalization ballot initiative,” Adam Eidinger, chair of D.C. Cannabis Campaign, the group backing the legalization measure, said in a statement. “It vindicates the work of this campaign so far, but we still have more work to do turning out the vote come Election Day.”
Only 33 percent of likely voters oppose legalization, which puts the scolds on the Washington Post’s editorial board in the distinct minority. Meanwhile, WaPo’s Aaron C. Davis and Peyton M. Craighill register a “major shift toward support [of legalization] among African Americans”:
The District’s black residents, who now account for half its population, once opposed marijuana legalization, partly out of fear it could lead to addiction among black youths. But as new studies have suggested otherwise, that attitude has evolved. One study last year showed that blacks account for nine out of 10 arrests for simple drug possession in the District, while another showed that was the case even as usage likely varied little among races. According to the poll, 56 percent of likely African American voters say they would vote for legalization, a near identical number to a broader question about support for legalization asked in a Washington Post poll in January. Together, the polls confirm a complete reversal of opinions among African Americans from four years ago. Then, 37 percent were in favor of legalization and 55 percent opposed.
But Jacob Sullum warns that even if Initiative 71 were to pass, Congress could still get in the way:
Legalization of the cannabis industry would be left to the D.C. Council, which could be overridden by Congress. Congress also could block implementation of Initiative 71, as it did for years with Initiative 59, the medical marijuana measure that D.C. voters approved in 1998. The last congressional effort to stymie marijuana reform in D.C., led by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), consisted of an amendment that would have barred the District from spending public money “to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution” of a controlled substance. The House approved Harris’ amendment in June, but it was dropped from the final version of the spending bill. Harris plans to try again if Initiative 71 passes.
As Matt Connolly notes:
A full-scale legalization effort, complete with dispensaries like those seen in Washington and Colorado, could provoke the ire of national conservatives again. It’s a fight D.C. is used to having, and its outcome might depend on how the other states with legalization measures – Oregon and Alaska for recreational, Florida for medical – end up voting.