U.S.: New Gallup Poll Shows 58% of Americans Support Making Marijuana Legal
By Steve Elliott
A Gallup poll released on Tuesday shows 58 percent of voters nationwide “think the use of marijuana should be made legal.” Only 39 percent of respondents said they do not. Support increased by eight percentage points since Gallup asked the same question in October 2011, at which time it found a record-high 50 percent in favor.
The poll is the first conducted by Gallup since voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establishing state-regulated systems of marijuana cultivation and sales. It also comes nearly two months after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not interfere in the implementation of those state laws and others that effectively regulate marijuana for medical use.
The national poll of 1,028 registered voters was conducted October 3-6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. The full results are available here.
“The dramatically increasing support for making marijuana legal should come as no surprise," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Marijuana prohibition has been an abject failure. Most Americans realize it is unjust, wasteful, and counterproductive to invest in the criminalization of adults for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol.
“The news of such widespread support for ending marijuana prohibition bodes well for efforts underway to change state laws around the nation," Kampia remarked. "Two states are in the process of regulating marijuana like alcohol, and in the next few years we will surely see several others do the same.
“It is time for Congress to take this issue head on," Kampia said. "It should no longer be considered scary or troublesome to speak out in support of more sensible marijuana policies. We need to put marijuana prohibition behind us, and our leaders need to step up to move things forward.”
“The latest poll results point to the absurdity and even venality of persisting with harsh prohibitionist policies,” said Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “No other law is enforced so harshly and pervasively yet deemed unnecessary by so many Americans.
"Spending billions of dollars and arresting 750,000 people annually for violating marijuana laws now represents not just foolish public policy but also an inappropriate and indecent use of police powers to favor one side of a cultural and political debate,” Nadelmann said.
“The passage of adult-use marijuana initiatives in Colorado and Washington has demonstrated widespread disillusion with marijuana prohibition,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). “The success of regulated medical and adult-use marijuana markets in 17 states and DC is replacing criminal enterprises with legal and responsible businesses that generate millions in tax revenue and tens of thousands of good jobs.
"It’s no surprise that 58 percent of Americans now support bringing this regulated approach to all 50 states,” Smith said.
Of the 21 states plus Washington, D.C., that have legalized marijuana for adult or medical use, 17 plus D.C. have implemented regulated systems for its distribution since 2009 or are currently in the process of doing so. And in a September Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, U.S. Deputy District Attorney James Cole acknowledged that tightly regulated marijuana industries are likely more effective at controlling access to marijuana.
“One simply needs to look to history to see that prohibition of a popular substance leads to a rise in organized crime and introduces otherwise law-abiding adults to criminal elements,” Smith said. “But in a regulated and secure marijuana industry, there is only room for responsible businesses and entrepreneurs with the highest standards for safety, quality, and accountability. Now, it’s time for Congress to act on this clear public mandate by taking action to end the failed experiment of federal marijuana prohibition.”