A new study has found that Americans favor legalizing marijuana because of its tax and economic benefits, and its impact on reducing prison crowding and costs of law enforcement.
A new study published in Preventative Medicine has found that Americans are more in favor of legalizing marijuana because of its economic benefits.
Led by Emma E. McGinty, a team of researchers from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences conducted a national survey of 980 Americans to determine the relative strength of common competing arguments about recreational marijuana legalization. Respondents were asked to rate the arguments on how much they believed each one, and whether they felt the argument was strong or weak.
The study found that 63.9 percent of Americans were more likely to agree with arguments highlighting legalization’s impact on increasing tax revenue, while 62.8 percent agreed with its effects on reducing prison overcrowding and its ability of lower the cost of law enforcement. The survey also found that the participants who agreed with the economic and criminal justice arguments were more likely than others to support legalization.
Fewer Americans were found to agree with the common anti-legalization arguments. The study found that 51.8 percent of respondents agreed with the argument that legalization could have potential negative consequences on motor vehicle crashes, and 49.6 percent agreed with the argument it could adversely affect youth health. The highest rated anti-legalization arguments were found to be the conflict between state and federal laws (63.0 percent) and the belief that legalization would still fail to eliminate the black market (57.2 percent).
Overall, respondents viewed the anti-legalization public health risk arguments as less compelling than the pro-legalization economic and criminal justice-oriented arguments.
“The pro arguments are really practical: ‘Give us money and jobs. Keep our prison from being overcrowded, make law enforcement’s job easier,” said Jeff Niederdeppe, co-author of the study. “And the con arguments are a little more ideological: ‘This is going to lead the big industry and crime and undermine the fundamental values that make America great.”
Eight U.S. states have legalized recreational marijuana. Four did so in last November’s election alone. The researchers found that 65 percent of the survey respondents that live in a state where adult use marijuana is already legal support legalization, compared to 45 percent of those who live in illegal states support ending prohibition.
Niederdeppe told the Cornell University Chronicle that he and his colleagues aren’t advocating for or against marijuana legalization, but hope to provide an objective look at public opinion as more states consider loosening cannabis laws.
“We’d better understand where the public stands on this issue if we want to develop policies that are responsive to democratic values and what people are concerned about,” Niederdeppe said. “Understanding where the public sees benefit and where it is nervous can help regulators… emphasize those things people agree are important.
You can access the entire study, “Public perceptions of arguments supporting and opposing recreational marijuana legalization,” at Science Direct.