Support grows in NC legislature for legalizing marijuana

Advocates for marijuana legalization will continue to push for medicinal, and now recreational, legalization in North Carolina — and polls in the state are showing growing support for medicinal use.

Rep. Kelly Alexander, D-Mecklenburg, said he will introduce a constitutional amendment to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana when the N.C. General Assembly resumes for a short session in May.

Alexander introduced a bill last year to legalize medicinal marijuana, but the House Rules Committee dismissed the bill within two weeks.

A majority of N.C. voters, 63 percent, support medical marijuana legalization, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling , a left-leaning firm based in Raleigh.

“People are ready to have the discussion, ‘Why is marijuana illegal in the first place?’” said Jon Kennedy, secretary for the state chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws.

But support for the recreational use of marijuana is not as strong in the state.

According to a recent survey by the Civitas Institute , a conservative think-tank in Raleigh, 56 percent of voters oppose legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the state. Only 38 percent were in favor.

Francis De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, said voters would be more likely to support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

Alexander said his amendment will most likely not pass through the N.C. General Assembly this year, but he is still optimistic.

“It’s an inevitable thing,” he said. “Trying to stop that movement reminds me of somebody marching out to the beach, holding up their hand and saying the tide will not rise.”

De Luca said the federal government’s policy of nonintervention in Colorado and Washington and President Barack Obama’s opinion will influence the debate in coming years.

Obama recently spoke on the issue in an interview with The New Yorker.

“I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” Obama said in the interview.

According to the PPP poll, 53 percent of people said that they thought alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana.

Nationally, young people are the largest demographic that support legalization, with 67 percent backing recreational use, according to a Gallup poll.

But some think this could be detrimental to the legalization movement. Young people often have low voter turnout rates.

“I think a lot of people who are willing to vote for it are students and young people, and it’s hard for them to make time to actually get out and vote,” said UNC senior Charles Kress.

Alexander said he hopes there is a big push from the public.

“I would just urge people who have an interest in this issue to start writing their newspapers, to call the members of the General Assembly that represent them, and express their opinion.”

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