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Nearly four in five New Mexicans support Gov. Gary Johnson's proposal to
legalize the medical use of marijuana, according to a poll released
Saturday by a group backing drug law changes.

The poll also found generally broad support across the political spectrum
for Johnson's other proposals to revamp the state's drug laws, including
the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, said the poll showed "the people are
ahead of the politicians" in favoring an overhaul of drug policies.

The poll was commissioned by the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation,
a research group and key supporter of Johnson's efforts to change drug laws.

Rep. Joe Thompson, R-Albuquerque, said the poll would help in lobbying the
Legislature to vote for the medical marijuana bill and other measures to
change sentencing laws for drug offenses.

"For us it's so hard because we're up here and politics plays such a big
role in it. This is good information from my perspective because it shows
that the people are looking at things in a much more rational fashion,"
said Thompson, who is sponsoring a medical marijuana measure.

The poll found:

-78 percent of those surveyed either strongly supported or somewhat
supported the use of marijuana for medical purposes for seriously ill or
terminal patients, such as those suffering from cancer or AIDS. Sixteen
percent were in opposition; 7 percent were undecided or wouldn't respond.
The totals exceed 100 percent because of rounding.

-65 percent of those surveyed either strongly supported or somewhat
supported making the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil
offense - punishable like a speeding ticket, rather than treating it as a
crime for which people could be jailed. Twenty-nine percent strongly or
somewhat opposed the decriminalization proposal; 6 percent didn't have an
opinion or wouldn't say.

-63 percent strongly or somewhat supported a change in state law to make
first and second convictions for possessions small amounts of drugs such as
heroin and cocaine a misdemeanor rather than a felony, and require
substance abuse treatment. Thirty-two percent opposed the sentencing
proposal by Johnson; 5 percent were undecided.

-61 percent said current drug policies, or the so-called war on drugs, have
been ineffective in reducing drug use in New Mexico. Thirty-three percent
said the drug policies were somewhat or every effective; 7 percent were

-65 percent said more emphasis should be placed on treating drug users
medically and increasing drug prevention programs. Fifteen percent wanted
an emphasis on punishment and sending drug users to prison. Seven percent
said there should be an emphasis on both approaches. Thirteen percent were
undecided or said their view depended on other factors.

Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents supported marijuana
decriminalization and the drug sentencing revisions, according to the poll.

"It shows the public, in general, and a great majority of them are looking
at reasonable solutions to what is really a problem in this state," said
Rep. W. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,
which is expected to consider several drug-related measures next week.

A medical marijuana proposal is awaiting debate and a vote in the Senate.

The poll was conducted by Research & Polling Inc., an Albuquerque company
experienced in polling in New Mexico. The survey of 504 registered voters,
which was conducted last month, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4
percentage points.

Newshawk: DrugSense DrugSense
Pubdate: Sat, 03 Mar 2001
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Author: Barry Massey, Associated Press Writer
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