What’s A Straw Poll?
For those that don’t know, a straw poll is an unofficial ballot conducted as a test of opinion. On 5/22/2018 the question above appeared as the first local question on the Democratic ballot for Forsyth County, Georgia. “Should Georgia amend the state Constitution to legalize the use of cannabis/marijuana for those 21 years old and older, allow a retail dispensary base, tax said products, and allocate revenue received equally to state education and transportation infrastructure?”
The results are non-binding. It was just a question to “test the opinion” of the voters. Well, the voters spoke, and the results are pretty amazing, though not all that surprising.
4996 (a whopping 77%) answered YES
Only 1471 answered NO
Did I mention that a whopping 77% answered YES?
Marijuana On An Official Ballot in Georgia?
How’d that happen? I reached out to Melissa Clink, who currently chairs the Forsyth Democratic Party and asked that question. She told me, “Our election board officials asked about a month ahead of elections if we wanted questions on our ballot. These questions take the temperature of voters and in my opinion alert elected officials how their constituents want them to vote on such matters. I believed marijuana legalization was a high priority question in Georgia”.
Clink said that there was some initial resistance from within the party, although support for medical usage was unequivocal. As is the case with many citizens in Georgia, some believed Georgia had a viable medical marijuana program and were unaware of some of the hypocrisy in that program. Clink explained that Georgia has a non-functioning medical use law that does not include in-state growth or access to medicine and that “we need to know how voters feel about outright legalization so that our elected officials can legislate according to the will of the people”. The question was added to the ballot.
Did I Mention That A Whopping 77% Answered YES?
I bring that up because according to the latest Quinnipiac poll 63% of the Nation favors legalization. The folks in Forsyth County, Georgia obviously favor it more than that. Even the Republican Party there is saying they wish they’d asked that, and other, questions.
Catherine Bernard, a liberty-loving criminal defense attorney said: “[this] matches up with my jury selection experience in Forsyth where almost everyone raised their hand when the prosecutor asked who thought it shouldn’t be against the law to have MJ!”
The Heroin Triangle and Education
Forsyth County is in Georgia’s “Heroin Triangle”, and this may have some bearing on why this county ranges 14% higher than the national percentage. I’m sure they’ve been paying close attention to the growing evidence that marijuana is an exit from opiates, not the gateway.
While the percentage of folks that want marijuana legalized in other Georgia counties may not be quite as high, we know that the majority of citizens want this. We knew it in 2014 when we had a telephone poll done and over 50% of those polled were for full legalization. That percentage has grown immensely over the past 4 years.
Why Georgia, Why?
So the questions become, “Why aren’t Georgia Legislators listening? Why aren’t more of them vocally supporting in-State cultivation for medical purposes? Why aren’t they getting on board with decriminalizing possession of one ounce or less? Why is it necessary to arrest more than 24,000 people a year for possession?”
Contact your legislators during this recess. Reach out to them on their home turf. Call, write, email. Express your support for more rational marijuana laws.
Contact your Republican and Democratic Party Chairs. Discuss a straw poll with them.
“When we are talking, we are winning”. Sooner now, than later, they will have to listen to us. The tide is turning in Georgia.
Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, fighting for the rights of Georgian cannabis consumers. You can visit their website at www.peachtreenorml.org, follow their work on Facebook and Twitter, and please make a contribution to support their work by clicking here.