The overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to current federal marijuana law.
That’s the big takeaway from a new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy and released by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the country’s most prominent anti-legalization group.
The poll took a unique approach to a legalization survey. Instead of asking people if they support legalization and giving them a binary yes-or-no choice, it asked 1,000 registered voters about several options for federal marijuana policy: keeping current policy (which prohibits possessing and using cannabis for any purpose), legalizing “physician-supervised medical use,” decriminalizing pot by removing criminal penalties for use and allowing medical use but prohibiting sales, and legalizing the commercial production, use, and sale of marijuana for recreational use.
Only 16 percent of Americans favored keeping the current policy. About 29 percent backed only medical legalization, 5 percent backed decriminalization, and 49 percent backed full legalization. The remaining 1 percent were not sure.
Even among Republicans, who tend to be more conservative on drug policy issues, current federal marijuana law fared poorly: Only 25 percent of Republican voters supported keeping the policy as is, 36 percent backed medical marijuana, 2 percent backed decriminalization, and 36 percent backed full legalization. The majority of Republican voters were for some form of legalization — medical or recreational.
SAM said in a statement that the poll shows the country is evenly split on legalization. The group has often argued that other legalization polls, by posing the issue in a binary yes-or-no style, miss some of the potential nuances in marijuana policy and public opinion.
It’s true that this more nuanced poll finds lower levels of support of legalization than, for example, Gallup or the Pew Research Center, whose most recent surveys found 64 percent and 61 percent support for full legalization, respectively.