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Pot Lobbyists Target Conservatives In New York Legalization Drive

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Since 1996, 12 US states have enacted legislation permitting medical use of marijuana, prescribed under the supervision of a doctor, to patients who are seriously ill. Earlier this month, the Marijuana Policy Project, a top D.C. pot lobby group, announced it had designs on number 13: New York.

While it is no surprise that New York and its blue-tinged electorate would make a logical target for the medical legalization push -- not to mention a nice East Coast bookend for advocates' successes in California ten years ago -- the pot policy group's tactics in the Empire State are not so predictable.

They're wooing conservatives.

"We're focusing on Republicans in New York swing districts," the group's communications director, Bruce Mirken, told RAW STORY. "Places where these people are not dead certain they're going to win their elections."

A bill legalizing medical use of marijuana has already passed the Democrat-heavy New York State Assembly, and the Senate could be poised to take on a different version of the bill in the next few months. Proponents say that if they cobble together enough conservative support, the legislation could become law.

Joining with the like-minded group New Yorkers for Compassionate Care, the Policy Project rolled out an arsenal of print and radio advertisements in September. They featured a conservative as the ad's centerpiece.

"I'm Joel Peacock, a 56-year old construction manager and member of the New York State Conservative Party," read one ad, accompanied by a photo of Peacock, that ran in the Long Island district of Republican State Sen. Carl Marcellino.

"I'm also a patient suffering from chronic, severe pain due to a 2001 car accident, who every month uses thousands of dollars of prescription pain medicines that offer me little relief," the ad continues. "Please give me and thousands of other suffering New Yorkers the legal option of the relief that medical marijuana can offer us."

Although the ad may appear at first glance to be an uphill appeal to a voting block historically unsympathetic to calls for relaxed drug policy, poll findings tell a different story.

56 percent of Conservative Party members in New York -- and 76 percent of all New Yorkers -- are in favor of "allowing the very ill to use and grow medical marijuana," the ads say.

"We said 'let's look at the conservatives, the constituency that's assured to be the most difficult," Mirken said. "And what we found is that they're actually behind us."

Those statistics, reported this year by pollsters Mason-Dixon and the Sienna Research Institute, represent, according to Mirken, a unique political phenomenon -- "a majority," he said, "that doesn't know they are a majority."

A poll three years ago in Vermont asked if they thought others would support legalization of medical marijuana, regardless of their own personal opinion.

"People said 'no.' They didn't think others would support it," Mirken said. "And it's everywhere you go. Support cuts across race, gender and ideology...but there is a disconnect from political opinion. And legislators are stuck. They say,'it's going to look like I'm soft on drugs."

For the targets of the marijuana lobby, however -- namely, New York conservatives -- legalizing a controlled substance, even to be doled out under strict medical supervision, is not always an easy sell.

"There is nobody active in the Party who wants to see people suffering," Shaun-Marie Levine, Executive Director of the Conservative Party of New York State, told RAW STORY."But smoking a joint is not the answer."

Influential New York kingmakers who hold a great deal of sway among state Republicans, the Conservative Party may have a majority of registered members who back a move for medical use, but its leadership remains vocally opposed.

"Did you see that bill?" Levine asked, referring to the State Assembly's version of the June legislation permitting pot prescriptions.

The Assembly's measure "legalizes the possession, manufacture, use, delivery, transfer, transport or administration of [marijuana] by a certified patient or designated caregiver for a certified medical use..."

And that, for Levine, is near-anarchical.

"It says you can have 12 pot plants in your house," she said, aghast. "12 pot plants!"

"We really believe," Levine said, "that this is just a way to make pot legal."

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: The Raw Story
Author: Jason Rhyne
Contact: The Raw Story
Copyright: 2007 The Raw Story
Website: Pot lobbyists target conservatives in New York legalization drive
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