For several weeks, we have been hearing about the results of a comprehensive public opinion survey on the issue of marijuana policy in the Palmetto State – one reportedly prepared by Atlanta, Georgia-based political strategist Robert Cahaly.
Cahaly, of course, is the senior strategist for The Trafalgar Group – one of the few firms to correctly predict the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. He has also been a veritable Nostradamus when it comes to calling recent elections in the Palmetto State.
We first heard of this rumored survey back in January, and earlier this month we were apprised of its results – however we declined to report on the numbers because we had not obtained verification through a credible source (or, in lieu of that, received a copy of the actual poll).
That changed this week …
The much-anticipated document – which has been floating around the S.C. State House after copies were given to several key legislative leaders – finally found its way into our hands.
What did its results reveal? Good news … at least for those who support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.
According to Cahaly’s survey, 49.7 percent of likely 2020 general election voters support legalizing marijuana “for people suffering (from) illness and with a doctor’s approval.” Meanwhile another 22.8 percent said they supported “complete legalization, even recreational.”
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(Via: Getty Images)
Only 18.8 percent of respondents indicated they “oppose(d) all legalization for any reason.”
Of interest? Cahaly’s “what do your neighbors think” question – which is often indicative of latent feelings on a particular issue – revealed 38.1 percent support for recreational marijuana legalization compared to only 15.2 percent of respondents who opposed “all legalization for any reason.”
That could be an interesting preview of where this debate is headed …
As of this writing, though, likely voters in South Carolina remain opposed to recreational legalization – although the categorical breakdowns are interesting to consider. According to Cahaly’s survey, 45.5 percent oppose recreational legalization without qualification while 12.2 percent oppose it but say it is “inevitable.”
All told, that is 57.7 percent of likely voters currently opposed to recreational legalization – although as noted some of that opposition appears “poachable.” Meanwhile, 27 percent of likely voters support recreational legalization and another 5.3 percent support it “along with (legalizing) many other recreational drugs.”
Cahaly’s survey tested several marijuana-related messaging points – including the likelihood of medical decriminalization keeping “South Carolina tax dollars (from) being wasted on the arrest and prosecution of legitimate medial users.” Likely voters were 54.1 percent more likely to support legalization based on such a belief, including 31.6 percent who said they were “much more likely” to back legalization as a result.
The poll also found that 60.4 percent of likely voters would be more likely to support medical marijuana legalization if they knew it would be “tightly regulated by the state, requiring authorization from a certified physician.” Of those, 34.1 percent said such tight regulation would make them “much more likely” to back the bill.
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Well, then … that explains the draconian regulatory measures included in the latest medical marijuana bill championed by state representative Tom Davis (above), one of the legislative leaders who reportedly had access to the Cahaly survey.
Davis has repeatedly referred to his bill – S. 366 – as “the most socially conservative medical marijuana bill in the country,” as well as a “sensible approach” to the controversial issue.
Of particular interest to state lawmakers following this debate? According to the Cahaly survey, likely 2020 voters would be 51.1 percent more likely to “support (a) senator or house member … (who) voted in favor of a bill to legalize medical marijuana.” Of those, 31.5 percent said they would be “much more likely” to support their senator or house member.
By contrast, only 30.5 percent said they would be “less likely” to support lawmakers who vote for medical marijuana – including only 12.1 percent who said they would be “much less likely.” Expect medical marijuana supporters to exploit that “intensity gap” as they push their bill forward this year.
This news outlet has long argued in favor of legalizing marijuana – medically and recreationally. As far as we are concerned it is a liberty issue – although we have acknowledged the necessary limits of such a policy.
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“As we continue to push for the decriminalization of drugs it’s important to remember that there are – and should be – limitations to this freedom,” we wrote last spring.
Indeed our friends in the law enforcement community – most of whom steadfastly oppose legalization under any circumstances – have made many compelling arguments related to legitimate public safety concerns.
Their most effective argument, though, has been the contention that medical marijuana legalization – far from being a moral issue for individuals afflicted with chronic, debilitating conditions – is being manipulated by many of its supporters as a “gateway argument” to recreational legalization.
We accept this premise unswervingly, which is why we have repeatedly urged state lawmakers to bring on what we believe to be the “real debate.”
For those of you keeping score at home, Cahaly’s pollsters surveyed a whopping 3,036 respondents (a huge sample) between December 11 and December 14 of last year. Using a mix of land lines, cell phones and digital responses, the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percent. We reached out to the pollster to get his thoughts on the data, which we obtained from multiple confidential sources, but he did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
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