Schwarzenegger's Tuesday statement did receive a ton of press (it's
unusual for a sitting governor to speak this openly on prohibition), it
was really quite mild in terms of what was actually said.
I think it's not time for [legalization], but I think it's time for a
debate," Schwarzenegger said, according to UPI. "I think all of those
ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it.
And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are
doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it
have on those countries?"
governor's statement, in view of polls showing majority support for pot
legalization in California, doesn't represent much political risk. In
fact, it's yet another example of politicians following rather than
leading in the debate over prohibition.
history has shown that on this subject, historically perceived as
fraught with political peril, public opinion usually precedes political
will by months or even years.
the groundswell of support goes beyond California, as was shown by the
Zogby poll that was released just one day after Schwarzenegger's
statement to the press.
other recent polls, including ones taken by Gallup and ABC/Washington
Post, show marijuana legalization support in the mid-40s nationally,
the new Zogby numbers represent a significant milestone -- for the
first time ever, a national majority voicing support for the concept of
3,937 voters nationwide, weighted to match the 2008 presidential
outcome -- 54 percent Obama supporters and 46 percent McCain voters.
Voters were asked: "Scarce law enforcement and prison resources, a
desire to neutralize drug cartels and the need for new sources of
revenue have resurrected the topic of legalizing marijuana. Proponents
say it makes sense to tax and regulate the drug while opponents say
that legalization would lead marijuana users to use other illegal
drugs. Would you favor or oppose the government's effort to legalize
Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., "the
public is way ahead of the politicians on this." Kampia called
marijuana prohibition a "disastrously failed policy" and called public
support for legalization "strong and growing."