A new Quinnipiac poll indicates that a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana and want the U.S. Attorney General to leave states that have legalized marijuana alone.
A majority of Americans believe marijuana should be legal and that the Department of Justice (DOJ) should not enforce federal marijuana law in states that have legalized its medical or recreational use.
According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 70 percent of American voters oppose the Trump administration’s push to crack down on states that have legalized marijuana.
United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this month that he was rescinding the Cole Memo, an Obama-era federal policy that deprioritized the prosecution of marijuana cases in states where the substance had been legalized. Eight states have legalized the adult use of marijuana, while 29 have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. The change in policy suggests Sessions and the DOJ might be planning a widespread crackdown.
The national survey, released earlier this month, found that Democrats more than Republicans oppose efforts by Sessions to enforce federal marijuana laws on consumers and businesses compliant with state law. Among Democrats, 70 percent said they believe the federal government should be hands-off, compared to only 47 percent of Republicans.
The poll also found that 58 percent of all voters, including nearly eight in 10 of voters under 34 years old, believe that recreational marijuana should be made legal. Republicans are the only group against adult use marijuana legalization, with 62 percent saying they’re opposed to it. Ninety-one percent of all voters support the legalization of medical marijuana.
“The demographics say pot is here to stay, either for fun or to provide medical comfort,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “And the message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Hands off.”
The Quinnipiac poll surveyed more than 1,100 voters nationwide via telephone from January 5 to 9.
Sessions and Marijuana
While the Quinnipiac poll is the only the latest in nationwide surveys indicating that support for marijuana legalization is at a record high, Attorney General Sessions has made it clear that he opposes loosening of cannabis law. He has said that, “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and has argued that marijuana “is only slightly less awful than heroin.” Since taking over as AG, his Justice Department has been accused of blocking cannabis research.
Last year, Sessions requested that Congress eliminate the federal protections that prevent his Justice Department from going after states with legal medical marijuana. Congress extended those protections anyway.
His rescinding the Cole Memo this month, giving attorney generals the opportunity to enforce federal law as they see fit, was met with harsh criticism among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, as well as cannabis business owners and advocates. California Congresswoman Barbara Lee promptly introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from enforcing federal cannabis laws in marijuana-legal states.
A federal crackdown on states with legalized marijuana would not only jeopardize billions in revenue and thousands of jobs, but could also hinder access to medical marijuana patients. It would not, however, impact the nationwide market for cannabidiol (CBD) hemp oil, which is excluded from the federal Controlled Substances Act.