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New Poll: Majority of Americans Support Marijuana Legalization, Want Federal Government to Not Interfere

The vast majority of U.S. voters support making marijuana legal and believe the federal government should respect state cannabis laws, a new poll has found.

American voters are in favor of medical marijuana legalization and would be opposed to the federal government trying to crack down on states that have implemented marijuana laws, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University.

The poll, released February 23, found that 93 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes if prescribed by a physician. Despite marijuana’s federal classification as a Schedule I substance, 28 states have passed legislation allowing for comprehensive medical cannabis.

Overall, 59 percent of voters support adult use legalization, although 61 percent of Republicans are reportedly in opposition. Every other party, education, age, gender and racial group were found to favor legalized marijuana. A Quinnipiac poll from June 2016 showed nationwide support for marijuana legalization at that time to be 54 percent.

“[Marijuana’s] acceptance is growing yearly, monthly,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “There’s never been a downturn.

In a press conference last month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that he expects the administration to increase enforcement of federal law in states that have legal adult use. While Donald Trump has said in the past that he supports marijuana law being left to the states, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, officially the head of the Department of Justice, is a longtime opponent to cannabis legislation.

Results of the Quinnipiac Poll indicate that five out of seven voters (71 percent), including Republicans, Democrats, independents, and every age, gender and racial group, oppose the federal government cracking down on marijuana businesses that are following state law.

DEA marijuana illegal

Eight states have so far passed adult use legislation, and lawmakers in several other states are currently considering recreational bills. The nation’s legal cannabis market generated $6.7 billion in sales last year and is expected to a have a gross domestic product growth rate of 25 percent, exceed $21 billion in sales by 2020.

Spicer’s comments do suggest that the administration will take a hands off approach to states with medical marijuana laws, saying the “president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana can bring to them.”

The director of communications for the marijuana policy reform organization Marijuana Policy Project, Mason Tvert, spoke about the results of the poll and how they conflict with Spicer’s recent comments.

“The vast majority of Americans agree that the federal government has no business interfering in state marijuana laws,” said Tvert, in a statement. “This administration is claiming that it values states’ rights, so we hope they will respect the right of states to determine their own marijuana policies. It is hard to imagine why anyone would want marijuana to be produced and sold by cartels and criminals rather than tightly regulated, taxpaying businesses. Mr. Spicer says there is a difference between medical and recreational marijuana, but the benefits and need for regulation apply equally to both.

“Mr. Spicer acknowledged that the Justice Department is currently prohibited from using funds to interfere in the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. It is critical that Congress once again includes that provision in the next budget, and we are hopeful that they will also adopt a provision that extends that principle to all state marijuana laws.”

The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,323 voters and was conducted February 16-21 via landline and cellphone interviews. You can read the results of the entire poll here.

Learn more about the current cannabis laws in the U.S. by visiting our education page.