Back in 2012, I was part of a network of activists pushing for legal cannabis at the state level here in the United States. We were able to get adult-use cannabis legalization on the ballot in three states that year – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon (Oregon is where I live).
The activists in Colorado had the best political messaging out of the three efforts, heavily relying on the ‘regulate cannabis like alcohol’ talking point. It proved to be a tremendously successful way to frame legalization with voters. Much better than the ‘regulate cannabis like tomatoes’ talking point that many activists (not me) were promoting here in Oregon as part of what would prove to be a losing effort for us on Election Day in 2012.
Alcohol is common in society, and unlike tomatoes it induces intoxication. Yet, people are able to consume it responsibly and governments are able to regulate it. Given that alcohol is exponentially more harmful than cannabis, the ‘regulate cannabis like alcohol’ message resonated with a wide voter base because it was a logical approach to implementing sensible public policy.
It’s a concept that has since expanded well beyond the borders of the State of Colorado, and it’s still something that resonates with voters, as proven by a recent poll conducted in Australia. Below is more information about the poll via an excerpt from Cannabiz:
The online survey of 1,086 adults aged 18-plus, conducted by polling company Essential Research from March 30 to April 2, found 50% of respondents support making cannabis use legal, double the number recorded in the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.
And a majority — 55% — favour regulating and taxing cannabis sales like alcohol or tobacco.
Meanwhile, 58% want medicinal cannabis made more affordable and accessible by allowing people with prescriptions to grow their own, and 62% support scrapping current drug-driving laws.
All of the poll’s results are insightful. However, the 50% level of support for ‘making cannabis legal’ compared to the 55% level of support for ‘regulating and taxing cannabis sales like alcohol’ really stood out to me. It demonstrates how many more people will support reform when there is a regulated industry component being proposed, and that it would be based on a similar regulatory structure as alcohol.
In years past, the concept of regulating cannabis like alcohol was just a theory. Now that a number of jurisdictions have implemented the practice, including Canada at a national level, places like Australia can see it working in real-time.
Legalization works. Regulation works. Hopefully lawmakers in Australia see these poll results and work to get their country on the right side of history sooner rather than later.