A new survey has found that nearly six in ten Americans say the quality of societies is improved when adult use marijuana is legalized.
A Harvard-Harris Poll survey of 2,032 registered voters released this month found that nearly six in ten Americans believe that “legalizing marijuana makes societies better.”
The poll also found that 86 percent support legalizing cannabis in some form, either for both medical and personal use or solely for medicinal use. Only 14 percent of those surveyed believe marijuana should be completely illegal.
The survey’s findings come on the heels of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging Congress to lift the federal protections that prevent the Justice Department from using funds to crack down on states that have legalized medical marijuana. Sessions has blamed the spikes in violence to the loosening of cannabis laws, despite findings otherwise and recommendations by his own Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety to remain hands off. In a recent op-ed, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates criticized Sessions’ hardline stance on cannabis, noting that violent crime rates are actually at historic lows.
The survey’s results do suggest that Americans are concerned with crime rates. Most voters (60 percent) do believe crime is on the rise, and 40 percent say drugs are the leading contributor to crime in America. However, most are not including marijuana among the drugs they believe are leading to crime.
“Voters point to drugs as a major source of crime and support tough sentences for drug dealers but view marijuana on a wholly different light,” said Harvard-Harris co-director Mike Penn. “Most think legalization of marijuana would probably be helpful in reducing crime and almost half support legalization.”
Medical marijuana is legal in more than half of the country, and eight states have legalized the possession and use of marijuana by adults 21 and up. Federally, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I substance.
Sixty-nine percent of people said it would not bother them if marijuana were legalized in their state, and 72 percent said they believe those convicted of possessing small amounts of cannabis should not be punished with jail time.
Public attitudes regarding cannabis have shifted significantly in the United States over the years. A Quinnipiac University Poll published recently put voter support for legalization at 61 percent, a record high percentage for the poll.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has introduced a bill that would remove marijuana from a Schedule I listing under the Controlled Substances Act. The legislation – the Marijuana Justice Act — would also allow offenders that have been imprisoned for possession to appeal to have their sentences reduced or eliminated and give the opportunity to have marijuana-related crimes expunged from their records.
The Harvard-Harris Poll was conducted online between July 19 and 24. Of the respondents, 37 percent were Democrats, 31 percent were Republicans, and 31 percent were independent or other. You can access the survey’s entire report here.