The Russ Belville Show
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Targeting women’s fears about legalization of marijuana WORKS

The latest ABC News / Washington Post poll confirms the results of marijuana legalization elections in Washington and Colorado.  A full 60 percent of those surveyed in the West support the legalization of marijuana, with only 37 percent opposed.

Majorities of 54% and 52% support “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use” in the Midwest and Northeast, respectively.  Only residents of the South still oppose marijuana legalization, with a 62% majority in opposition and only 36% in support.

Among demographic groups, only conservatives, Republicans, seniors, Hispanics, and women oppose marijuana legalization.  However, with the proper campaign, Hispanics and women will support marijuana legalization.

The Atlantic profiled the successful campaigns in Washington State and Colorado to legalize marijuana.  Both campaigns targeted women in their advertising, taking pains to frame the initiatives as “good public policy”, not “pro marijuana”.  Washington took the conservative approach, by presenting “soccer mom” archetypes and codifying strict controls over driving under the influence and underage use, prime concerns of women who oppose legalization.  Colorado already fought battles over DUID restrictions and has a functioning medical marijuana market that checks IDs, so reformers there concentrated more on the tax revenue and public health benefits messages to women.

The results are clear.  In both Colorado in 2006 and California in 2010, the gender gap in support predicted the failure of those legalization efforts.  In this latest poll, men support legalization at 52%, but women oppose it by 53%.  But in Colorado and Washington in 2012, 53% of women supported Amendment 64 and 53% of women supported Initiative 502.

As for Hispanics, there’s no polling data yet for Washington, but in Colorado, Latinos supported Amendment 64 at 70%.  Usually there is a strong social conservatism in Latino voters, tied to strong religious beliefs.  This time, however, reformers reached out to Spanish-speaking voters and illustrated the racist nature of marijuana enforcement, turning their opposition to drugs into support for civil rights.

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