A new Gallup poll shows record-breaking support for ending marijuana prohibition, with 64% of Americans now in favor of legalizing marijuana.
Support for marijuana legalization has steadily increased over the nearly half century that Gallup has been polling on this issue. Majorities of Americans across the political spectrum now believe that marijuana should be made legal, with 51% of Republicans, 72% of Democrats, and 67% of Independents supporting legalization. Simultaneously, President Trump’s approval ratings are nearing an all-time low.
“Marijuana legalization is far more popular than Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump and will survive them both,” said Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Instead of wasting limited law enforcement resources trying to stop successful state-level legalization initiatives, US officials should listen to the clear, bipartisan message the public is sending them, and support federal marijuana reform as well.”
In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington approved the first two U.S. state laws legalizing marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older. In 2014, voters approved legalization measures in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. In 2016, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada doubled the number of states that legally regulate marijuana, bringing the total to eight. As more and more states legalize, popular support for ending marijuana prohibition continues to climb. The number of Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana has increased 14% since 2011, the year before Washington and Colorado first legalized marijuana.
This support is likely due to the success of current state marijuana legalization programs. A Drug Policy Alliance report found that Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues, since the adult possession of marijuana became legal. At the same time, these states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities.
With support for marijuana legalization so strong, marijuana law reform advocates have a unique opportunity to not merely legalize marijuana but to also begin to repair the harms of marijuana prohibition. It is imperative that new marijuana legalization strategies follow and build upon California’s Proposition 64: The Adult Use of Marijuana Act.
Prop 64’s cutting edge provisions include decriminalizing marijuana use for youth; across-the-board retroactive sentencing reforms for marijuana offenses; removing barriers to the marijuana industry for persons with felony convictions; reinvesting marijuana revenues into communities most negatively impacted by marijuana enforcement; restoring the environment and watershed; protecting small businesses and farmers. In addition, Prop 64 establishes a comprehensive, strictly-controlled system to tax and regulate businesses to produce and distribute marijuana in a legal market.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) recently introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill modeled on Prop. 64 that ends federal marijuana prohibition and centers communities most devastated by the war on drugs.
“The question is no longer whether we should legalize marijuana, but rather how we should do it,” added McFarland Sánchez-Moreno. “The Marijuana Justice Act would legalize marijuana the right way, by not only stopping the ongoing harms of prohibition, but also beginning to address the devastation that marijuana prohibition has wrought, particularly among communities of color.”
Jolene Forman is a staff attorney with the Drug Policy Alliance.
Images via Gallup.