CNN has been slowly releasing data from its latest poll showing 55% nationwide support for legalization and 74% belief that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Today we learn that 84% of Americans believe that nobody should go to jail over pot.
CNN asked, “Assuming marijuana is not legalized, do you think people arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana should be put in jail, or just have to pay a fine but without serving any time in jail?” Four-out-of-five (79%) people agreed on a fine with no jail time and another 5% volunteered “neither”. Still, about one-in-seven (14%) support caging us, with another 2% undecided.
Looking through the demographics in the absence of legalization we find there is overwhelming support for fine-only punishment. Even 70% of seniors (over 65), 74% of Southerners, and 75% of conservatives, Republicans, and rural residents chose a fine with no jail time for simple pot possession.
Americans are also not keen on the federal government interfering with states that choose to legalize marijuana. Seven-in-ten (70%) oppose interference in Colorado’s legalization. When asked whether Colorado’s legalization was a good or bad idea, people with an opinion tended toward “good idea” over “bad idea” (33% vs. 29%), but the plurality (37%) want to “wait to see what happens”. Thus the onus is on Colorado and Washington to provide the good example.
Support for medical marijuana has become almost unanimous. Nearly nine-out-of-ten people (88%) agree that “adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it”. This support has grown from eight-out-of-ten for medical marijuana in CNN’s poll from 2002.
These days it seems like the only place in America you can find a majority in support of jailing tokers or patients is in most state government assemblies and the United States Congress.
"Radical" Russ Belville is the host of "The Russ Belville Show."