On Monday, my Congressman, Earl Blumenauer, announced on Huffington Post Live that marijuana prohibition is “game over in less than five years.” Rep. Blumenauer pointed out that “throughout the whole marijuana issue debate, there are numerous flat-out falsehoods. Schedule I drug? No therapeutic use? Worse than cocaine and meth? I mean, wait a minute.”
Rep. Blumanauer continued, “But the hemp one, that was so blatant and so obvious. And that is what’s changing the whole marijuana landscape, is that all the falsehoods, misrepresentations and misclassification that have been basically sanctioned by inertia no longer work.”
When US Congressmen are making statements that we were writing on protest signs ten, twenty, thirty, even forty years ago, you know we’re winning. Now, the Pew Research Center has some solid polling entitled “America’s New Drug Policy Landscape” that finds three-out-of-four Americans (75%) “think that the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide.” Here are the ten highlights that back up Rep. Blumenauer’s prediction:
1) There is no majority support among any demographic for jailing pot smokers. By age, race, and politics, there is solid support for the idea of decriminalization – that possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should not be subject to jail time. Overall, more than three out of four (76%) believe in no jail for pot, with Republicans (69%), 65 and older (63%), and Hispanics (60%) offering the least support for decriminalization. Over four in five (81%) of those aged 18-29 and, surprisingly, aged 50-64, support decrim. Even people who have never tried marijuana support decrim at 63%, while among those who currently use marijuana there is an odd 3% who support their own jail time vs. 97% who support decrim.
2) There is growing majority support for legalization of marijuana. Pew’s overall number is at 54% support vs. 42% opposed. Everyone younger than 65 support legalization with support jumping to 70% among the Millennials aged 18-29. Hispanics and Republicans oppose legalization, similar to their lower support for decriminalization.
3) People who support legalization understand legalization means less underage use. Overall, 54% of the respondents believed marijuana legalization means more kids will try it. But these numbers reflect a great deal about the respondent’s views on legalization itself. For those who opposed marijuana legalization, four out of five (80%) of them thought legalization leads to youth use. For those who support only medical marijuana legalization, two-thirds (66%) think of legalization as increasing child access. But among the people who support legalization, less than a third (29%) think more kids will try marijuana.
4) People don’t mind home marijuana use. Overwhelmingly, 83% of Americans don’t take issue with your personal use of pot in your own home. Even three-out-of-five (60%) of people who think pot use, medical or recreational, should remain a crime don’t care about your home toking.
5) People prefer regulated pot shops to street dealers. Overall, a majority of 57% wouldn’t mind a pot shop in their neighborhood. However, like the underage use issue, it depends on the respondent’s feelings toward legalization. 76% of those who prefer keeping marijuana criminal would be bothered by a pot shop as well as 57% of those who support medical legalization only.
6) People aren’t quite ready for public pot smoking. 63% of the respondents said they would be bothered if people used marijuana in public. That figure also depends on the respondent’s views toward personal use, but even among people who support legalization, 39% wouldn’t support public toking.
7) Marijuana use is up over the past five years. Pew notes that there were 14.5 million monthly marijuana smokers in 2007 accounting for 5.8% of the population. By 2012, there were 18.9 million monthly tokers making up 7.3% of the population.
8) People support their states getting rid of mandatory minimum sentencing. 63% of the respondents say the move by states away from mandatory sentences as a good thing, which is a rise of 17 points since the question was last asked in 2001. There was no racial, age, or political demographic that saw moving away from mandatory minimums as a bad thing.
9) People overwhelmingly support drug treatment over prosecution for those with serious drug problems. Two-thirds (67%) of the respondents agreed that the government should focus more on treatment for drug abuse than criminal prosecution. Again, there was no racial, age, or political demographic that preferred criminal prosecution; however, blacks were far more likely (81%) to push for drug treatment than whites (66%) and Hispanics (61%).
10) People understand that marijuana is safer than alcohol. When asked which drug would be more harmful if they were both equally available, 69% of respondents felt alcohol was more harmful to a person’s health than marijuana. 63% of respondents felt alcohol was also more harmful to society generally than marijuana.