Marijuana Legalization Research Report

26 November 2012

Memorandum for Ms. Holifield

From: Richard Braxton

Subject: A Local Look at the Legalization of Marijuana

Introduction

The seventies were a turbulent time of war and social protest. In this climate of hostility, marijuana was lumped in among many other drugs as part of the problem with society. This particular problem with society was the center of the drug war. The first battle of this war happened in 1970. According to Payne, Randy, and Gainey, the authors of Drugs and Policing, “The federal government classifies drugs into five schedules. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Examples of drugs included here are heroin, methaqualone, LSD, marijuana, and hashish” (25.) Although marijuana is such a minor drug, the government listed it among the hardcore drugs that cause all the problems. Marijuana was relegated to a drug with no medicinal value although many people felt differently. According to Blurred Boundaries by Bostwick, “…Physicians and the general public alike are in broad agreement that Cannabis sativa shows promise in combating diverse medical ills” (172). As a result of this sentiment, in 1995, California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use although legalization in any sort did not conform to the wishes of the United States government. Since that day, many other states have followed suit. Finally, in November of 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington have become the first to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. With these new steps into forcing the federal government to lift its ban on marijuana, one may wonder what is keeping the more conservative states from following suit. This research report is an attempt to gauge the opinions of the very conservative state of Mississippi and compare them to national opinion.

Methodology

The data in this research project was collected via two surveys; both surveys were created using the same ten questions. The first question accepted an open-ended numerical response:

  • What is your age?

The next five questions accepted responses in the form of yes or no:

  • Do you now or have you ever used tobacco products?
  • Do you now or have you ever used alcohol?
  • Do you now or have you ever used marijuana?
  • Are you a registered voter?
  • If marijuana was made legal, would you be more likely to use it?

The last four questions accepted answers ranked by the respondent’s support of the topic in question. Each question was answered by one of five responses: not at all, not very, no opinion, somewhat, or extremely. The four questions are:

  • Do you support the legalization of medicinal marijuana?
  • Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
  • Would you support a standardized blood level for driving under the influence of marijuana?
  • Would you support a federal tax on marijuana sales?

The first survey covered the attitude of the United States in general. This survey was created on surveymonkey.com using the Survey Monkey software. It was made available via Facebook. On Facebook, it was shared among a wide group of people who shared it with their friends. Therefore, the survey was able to collect data from all around the country. The second survey was distributed the old-fashioned way. It was distributed to a captive audience of college students at the University of Southern Mississippi. First, it was distributed to Mr. Byrd’s Theater 100 class on November 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm. Next, it was distributed to Dr. Slagle’s Religion 131 class on November 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Once the surveys were circulated and returned, the online survey had a sample size of twenty-three respondents, and the classroom survey had a sample size of fifty-two respondents. The data from surveys was tallied showing the results of the surveys as a whole and broken down into two groups. To remain scientifically valid, there was a minimum sample size of ten applied to each group. The data was divided up into these groups:

  • Online Totals
  • Classroom Totals

Results

In an attempt to understand the local views on the legalization of marijuana, one must first understand the national views on the same subject. The online survey shows insight into the national views on the legalization of marijuana.

Online Totals

Sample Size 23

Age18-20: 4.3%  Age21-25: 13%  Age 26-40: 52.1% Age 41 and older:28.5%
Do you now or have you ever used tobacco products?                        65.2% Y      N 34.8%
Do you now or have you ever used alcohol?                                       100% Y     N 0.0%
Do you now or have you ever used marijuana?                                  69.6% Y     N 30.4%
Are you a registered voter?                                                              73.9% Y     N 26.1%
If marijuana was made legal would you be more likely to use it?         21.7% Y     N 78.3%
For each question below, circle the number to the right
that best fits your opinion on the importance of the issue.
Use the scale above to match your opinion.
Question Scale of Importance
Not at all Not very No Opinion Some-what Extremely
Do you support the legalization of medicinal marijuana? 8.7% 4.3% 43.5% 43.5%
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana? 8.7% 17.4% 21.7% 26.1% 26.1%
Would you support a standardized blood level for driving under the influence of marijuana? 8.7% 13.0% 8.7% 69.6%
Would you support a federal tax on marijuana sales? 4.3% 17.4% 30.4% 47.8%

This poll sheds light on the general makeup of the nation’s voters as well as their opinions on the legalization of marijuana. The majority of respondents are over the age of twenty-five and a significant portion is over the age of forty. About two thirds of the respondents have used tobacco products at some point in their lives. Interestingly, one hundred percent of respondents have used alcohol. Just over two thirds have used marijuana. Nearly three quarters are registered voters. Less than one quarter of respondents would be more likely to use marijuana if it was legalized. However, the interesting part is their opinions on the legalization of marijuana. Over eighty percent of respondents support the legalization of medicinal marijuana. This is not really a surprise considering the number of states that have already legalized the medicinal use of marijuana.  Over half of the people polled support the legalization of recreational marijuana while only about one quarter of the respondents oppose its legalization. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before the number of states that legalize the recreational use of marijuana grows from the measly two that exist as of the 2012 election. Although the standardized blood level for marijuana while driving and a federal tax on marijuana sales can only exist once the use of marijuana has been legalized, the high numbers supporting these topics show that the respondents of this poll are interested in the responsible use of marijuana.

Yet, these results leave one to wonder what a strongly conservative state like Mississippi feels on the subject of legalization of marijuana. This poll was conducted at the University of Southern Mississippi. The questions are the same as the online survey, and each question was given the same answering system as the previous survey. This classroom poll shows a more local opinion on the legalization of marijuana. Both polls were written the same and distributed at about the same time. The online survey serves as a national look at the topic and the classroom survey serves as a local look at the same topic. The only differences are the locations of the people who took the survey. The results show the same trend as the online poll; however, there are minor differences that will be discussed.

 

Classroom Totals

Sample Size 52

Age unknown: 32.6%  Age 18-20: 36.5%  Age 21-25: 25.0% Age 26-40: 3.8% Age 41 and up: 0%
Do you now or have you ever used tobacco products?                        59.6% Y      N 40.3%
Do you now or have you ever used alcohol?                                       76.9% Y     N 23.0%
Do you now or have you ever used marijuana?                                   57.6% Y     N 42.3%
Are you a registered voter?                                                               86.5% Y     N 13.4%
If marijuana was made legal would you be more likely to use it?          42.3% Y     N 57.6%
For each question below, circle the number to the right
that best fits your opinion on the importance of the issue.
Use the scale above to match your opinion.
Question Scale of Importance
Not at all Not very No Opinion Some-what Extremely
Do you support the legalization of medicinal marijuana? 1.9% 9.6% 11.5% 36.5% 40.3%
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana? 15.3% 13.4% 13.4% 17.3% 40.3%
Would you support a standardized blood level for driving under the influence of marijuana? 7.6% 1.9% 19.2% 21.1% 50.0%
Would you support a federal tax on marijuana sales? 5.7% 5.7% 21.1% 15.3% 51.9%

Discussion

Age and Voting

First off, one will notice that the average age of the respondents of this poll is much younger. Over one third of the respondents are between the ages of eight-teen and twenty; however, nearly another third did refuse to give their age. Although there is the assumption that younger people are less likely to vote, eighty-six percent of the classroom poll report being registered voters. Yet, only seventy-five percent of the older online voters report the same thing. While it can be claimed that the smaller number of respondents in the online survey gives it a larger margin of error, there is not much room to claim that the younger respondents of the classroom survey are less likely to vote. The only thing that one can reliably deduce without further study is that the college respondents and the online respondents are both highly likely to vote and let their opinions be heard.

Alcohol Use

The online poll shows that one hundred percent of respondents have used alcohol, but the classroom poll shows that just over three quarters of the respondents have used alcohol. Before one goes off to conclude that Mississippians are less likely to use alcohol than the rest of the states, one must look at the more likely reason for this deviation. The high percentage of classroom respondents below the legal drinking age is more likely the cause for this trend. It seems to indicate that the college age residents of Mississippi are prone to obeying the laws in regards to mind altering substances. Yet, further research is required to know the truth of these claims.

Tobacco and Marijuana Use

The use of tobacco and the use of marijuana have both gone down about ten percent from the online poll to the local classroom poll. According to these findings, there could be some correlation between tobacco use and marijuana use. The likely link is that the primary use of both tobacco and marijuana are through smoking the substance. However, if the use of tobacco is somehow connected to the use of illegal substances in general, programs used to stop kids from using tobacco may be a good way to lower the likelihood that they would use drugs. Whatever the case may be, this is another area of this survey that begs further research.

Past Marijuana Use and Possibility of Future Use

Next one may notice that the percentage of those who have used marijuana has gone down from the online poll to the local one; yet, the percentage of those who would be more likely to use marijuana went up. This could be due to either the younger average age of the classroom respondents or the stricter laws of the conservative state in which they live. If their younger age is to blame, then as they grow older their attitudes will change, but if it is because of the political climate of Mississippi, then as the laws loosen more people will be likely to use marijuana. Either way, more studies are needed on this aspect to have a better understanding of the reasons for these changes.

Attitudes toward the Legalization of Marijuana

While attitudes about the legalization of medicinal marijuana remain fairly constant across both surveys, the local attitudes toward the legalization of recreational marijuana make a surprising change. In the conservative state of Mississippi, more than fifty percent of the respondents of this poll are in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana. The local classroom poll shows a small increase of five percent in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana; however, the people extremely in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana have increased from twenty-six percent in the online poll to forty percent in the classroom poll, but this polarization does swing both ways. The opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana has also increased from twenty-five percent in the online poll to twenty-eight percent in the classroom poll with the excess coming from a shrinking segment of undecided respondents.

Marijuana Centered Laws

Although it is surprising to see opposition to laws creating a standardized blood level for driving under the influence of marijuana and laws that would tax the sales of marijuana, these percentages are rather low on both polls. Yet, it may be interesting to do interviews with people who hold such unconventional views and come to see things through their eyes. However, the true thing to take away from the results of these polls is that it would be a surprise if marijuana were legalized in any form without these laws also being adopted. The adoption of a standardized blood level for driving under the influence of marijuana would take the guesswork out of arresting someone who is putting the public in danger with their poor choices. Additionally, the adoption of federal taxes on marijuana sales would bring in much needed revenue for the federal government.

Conclusion

Although conservative states, such as Mississippi, have been lagging behind more liberal states in the legalization of marijuana, residents of such states do support such laws. It is only a matter of time before the legislatures of these obstinate states bow to public opinion and pass laws to legalize marijuana. Organizations that put forward the marijuana legalization agenda, such as NORMAL, have fanned the flames of public opinion and brought this issue to a boiling point. According to NORML .com, “Criminal marijuana prohibition is a failure. Over 20 million Americans have been arrested for marijuana offenses since 1965. NORML believes that the time has come to amend criminal prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization, taxation, regulation, and education.” The federal government has spent countless man hours and countless millions of dollars to stop the cultivation of a drug that the populous has deemed harmless. It is obvious that opinions on the legalization of marijuana are changing. The people have spoken and their state governments are listening. According to Uncommon Sense in Mass Democracies by Quill, “Since the momentous events of the 1960s, civil disobedience has become an acceptable part of the culture in advanced, liberal-democratic states with groups from across the political spectrum employing strategies of principled law breaking as part of broader campaigns to alter policy” (1). With pressure exerted by the masses in the form of public opinion, the states have finally had more than they can stand from the federal government. The only thing left to do is break the law, and when enough pressure is put on the federal government, they will cave to the public whim as well.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this report. If you have any questions or comments, I can be contacted by email at richard.braxton@eagles.usm.edu.

Work Cited

Bostwick, J. Michael. “Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics And Politics Of Medical Marijuana.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 87.2 (2012): 172-186. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

“Legalization.” NORML:Working to Reform Marijuana Laws. NORML Foundation, 25 Nov. 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. <http://norml.org/&gt;.

Payne, Brian K.; Gainey, Randy R.. Drugs and Policing : A Scientific Perspective. Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 2004. Ebook Library. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.Survey link

Quill, Dr. Lawrence. Civil Disobedience : (Un)Common Sense in Mass Democracies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. , 2009. Ebook Library. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.

https://therichardbraxton.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/example-research-proposal-for-report-on-the-legalization-of-marijuana/

https://therichardbraxton.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/example-memorandum-for-research-proposal-on-the-legalization-of-marijuana/

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