Frank Chopp may be getting the message that his opposition to the marijuana decriminalization bill introduced last year wasn’t just misguided and backwards, but also bad politics. There will be a lot of people watching what he does in 2010 to push that bill – and drug law reform in general – forward as we continue to battle with our serious budget problems.
There’s also a heated debate happening now over whether Washington is ready to just leave Frank Chopp and the legislature behind and push for full legalization and regulation through a statewide voter initiative. There have been few, if any, quality statewide polls on the subject, but Gallup’s recent poll on the subject gives us enough data to get a good estimate of where the state’s voters might come down in such a poll.
While the poll linked above only broke the country down into regions (Washington is lumped into “West”, which had 53% support for legalization), it also broke down the percentages among people who self-identify as “liberal”, “moderate”, and “conservative”. Liberals supported legalization at 78%, moderates at 46%, and conservatives at 27%. Using another Gallup poll from this summer that broke down the percentage of each of those groups within Washington state, we can get a reasonably rough estimate of what the overall support might be (and Darryl could probably spend the next two weeks calculating the margin of error by doing it this way).
Liberals – 26% (of Washington residents)
Moderates – 37%
Conservatives – 33%
Other – 4%
Using the percentages Gallup found for the first three groups, of the 96% who identified as liberal, moderate, or conservative, just over 48% of them would support legalization. Certainly, these polls aren’t taking into account likely voters, nor are they taken within the context of a statewide initiative where the subject is being debated very publicly, so I wanted to compare my methodology with one truly reliable statewide poll – the failed 2006 legalization initiative in Nevada. That initiative garnered 44% of the votes. Looking at their political ideology breakdown:
Liberals – 22% (of Nevada residents)
Moderates – 37%
Conservatives – 37%
Other – 4%
The 96% who identified as liberal, moderate, or conservative would theoretically support legalization now at 46%, which is arguably in line with the 2006 result (as you’d expect slight increases over time).
What this means is that Washington truly is on the verge of being able to pass a statewide initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana. 2010 might be a tough year because the mid-terms are likely to draw larger numbers of conservatives to the polls, but it’s hard to imagine one going down to defeat in 2012.
UPDATE: Senator Jim Webb’s effort to create a commission to look into America’s failing criminal justice system has a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee today.