D.C.: Three Out of Four Voters Want To Remove Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession
Nearly two-thirds would support a ballot measure to make marijuana legal for adults and establish a system in which it is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol
By Steve Elliott
Three out of four Washington, D.C. voters would support changing District law to replace criminal penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling. Two-thirds (67 percent) said they believe law enforcement resources currently being used by District police to arrest individuals for marijuana possession should be directed toward other crimes.
The poll also found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of District voters would support a ballot measure similar to those approved by voters in Colorado and Washington in November, which made marijuana legal for adults and directed state officials to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. A solid majority (54 percent) said drug use should be treated as a public health issue and people should no longer be arrested and locked up for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.
The survey of 1,621 randomly selected District voters was conducted April 10-11. The full results and crosstabs are available at http://www.mpp.org/DCpol.
A national survey released by the Pew Research Center on April 4 found that, for the first time in its 40 years of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans (52 percent) support making marijuana legal. Just 45 percent said they think marijuana should remain illegal.
Its report on the survey notes that a Gallup poll conducted in 1969 found just 12 percent supported making marijuana legal and 84 percent were opposed.
“District voters, like most Americans, think it is time for a new, more sensible approach to marijuana policy," said Steve Fox, national political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "People should not be subjected to life-altering criminal penalties simply for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol. Harsh criminal penalties should be reserved for serious criminals, and our law enforcement resources should be reserved for addressing serious crimes.”
“As a 20-year D.C. resident I know scores of people who have been humiliated with an arrest and have even spent time in jail for possessing small quantities of marijuana," said Adam Eidinger, public affairs director for Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which sponsored the poll. "This new poll confirms that there is little support for laws that criminalize marijuana consumers in the District and they are due for repeal. We hope it inspires the Council to craft meaningful marijuana policy reform legislation, but in either case a change in the law appears to be inevitable.”
“D.C. voters clearly want to end the failed war on drugs," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Decriminalizing marijuana is a no-brainer, but the Council should do more.
"There is an opportunity to make a clean break from the past and treat drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue," Piper said. "More access to treatment and health services. No more putting people in jail.”