The latest CNN Opinion Poll is out and it reveals what Gallup and Pew have already told us: Americans are ready to legalize marijuana. A majority of 55% of people surveyed answered YES, “the use of marijuana should be made legal” while 44% said NO and only 1% had no opinion.
Opponents of legalization, like Kevin Sabet of Project SAM, will often counter by pointing out these polls indicate support for ending the worst aspects of the drug war, like incarcerating marijuana consumers, but if the people knew we were talking about sales and commercialization of marijuana, the support would drop. He’s right, by a meager 1%. Another majority, 54%, believe that “the sale of marijuana should be made legal” with 45% opposed.
The gender gap still exists between men’s vs. women’s support for legalization (59% vs. 51%) which narrows a bit for marijuana sales (57% vs. 51%). Legalization support is greatest among the young, with two-thirds (67%) of 18-29-year-olds in favor and 64% of 30-44-year-olds in favor. Support is higher among non-whites (60%) than whites (53%) and higher among college educated (58%) than no college education (51%). Geographically, support is greatest in the Northeast (60%) followed by the West (58%) and Midwest (57%). Politically, Democrats (62%) and Independents (59%) support ending prohibition, while four out of five (80%) of those who espouse a liberal ideology support legalization.
The poll also gauged American attitudes and beliefs about marijuana. Majorities now agree that for most people, the use of marijuana is not physically harmful (56%), not mentally or psychologically harmful (54%), or a gateway to the use of other drugs (50%). A bare majority still believes, though, that marijuana is physically addictive (50%). Only older, conservative Republicans believe marijuana is a mentally and physically harmful gateway drug.
The country is split on whether the use of marijuana is a serious problem in America. Only 19% rate marijuana as a “very serious” problem, while 27% say it is “not really a problem at all” and another 22% rate marijuana as “not too serious” a problem. About one third (32%) say marijuana is a “moderately serious” problem.
Finally, the poll asked a series of questions about the morality of various acts. Smoking marijuana was rated as “morally wrong” by a little more than a third (35%) of respondents, about the same as those who find unmarried cohabitation (32%) a sin. Looking at porno mags was rated as “morally wrong” by more people (46%) than smoking a joint.
So, who still supports arresting and incarcerating marijuana consumers? People over age 65, Southerners, Conservatives, Republicans, and folks living in rural areas. So, basically, George W. Bush.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."