Drug Law

New Poll Shows Majority of Americans Support Legal Marijuana

| by Reason Foundation

In a recent Zogby poll, 52 percent of voters said they supported marijuana legalization. As far as I know, this is the first time a national survey has found majority support for repealing cannabis prohibition, as opposed to merely decriminalizing possession for personal use. A couple of caveats:

1. According to a press release from the Marijuana Policy Project, the survey, commissioned by The O'Leary Report, used "a sample of 3,937 voters weighted to match the 2008 presidential outcome—54 percent Obama voters and 46 percent McCain supporters." This sample may be skewed in a pro-reform direction if, as seems plausible, left-leaning Americans were especially motivated to vote in the last presidential election, while conservatives were dispirited. I'm not sure what the exit polls showed on that score.

2. The wording of the question seems slanted:

Scarce law enforcement and prison resources, a desire to neutralize drug cartels and the need for new sources of revenue have resurrected the topic of legalizing marijuana. Proponents say it makes sense to tax and regulate the drug while opponents say that legalization would lead marijuana users to use other illegal drugs. Would you favor or oppose the government's effort to legalize marijuana?

Respondents were presented with three arguments in favor of legalization and only one against, and it was pretty lame. Why would legalizing pot make people more likely to use heroin? Because pot would lose its "forbidden fruit" cachet? That sounds like an antiprohibitionist argument. Also, the phrase "the government's effort to legalize marijuana" makes it sound as if this is something that's already happening, which makes the idea seem more realistic and credible.

Still, this sounds like good news, and it's in line with building support for marijuana legalization in other surveys, as well as recent comments by sitting public officials who say they're open to discussing the idea.