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Majority of Americans Ready to Legalize Marijuana

Here are the key statistics from the latest Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll.

  • 55% support the legalization of marijuana, with greatest support from:
    • Democrats: 63%
    • Independents: 61%
    • Men: 57%
    • Aged 35-54: 57%
  • 67% think the “War on Drugs” has been a failure… however
    • Only 10% support legalizing ecstasy
    • 9% powder cocaine
    • 8% heroin
    • 7% meth
    • 7% crack cocaine
  • 64% think America has a serious drug abuse problem that affects the whole country

There are some important points we can gather from this:

  1. Democrats (the voters) support marijuana legalization, even though Democrats (the politicians) do not. The challenge here is to get it to rise to more than support, but a crucial voting issue.
  2. We’ve done a great job of demonstrating the failures of the drug war to the citizens, but we still have a long way to go to convince them that legalization of all drugs isn’t surrender, but a solution.
  3. If close to 2/3 of Americans think that we have a serious drug abuse problem, then we, as reformers, need to do a better job of showing how reform can address that problem.

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28 comments to Majority of Americans Ready to Legalize Marijuana

  • Francis

    Oops, I didn’t see that you’d given this story its own thread so I figure I’ll repost my earlier comment here:

    Wow! Yes, there are probably sampling / methodology problems with the poll which make it overly rosy. (The story indicates that a Gallup poll from late 2010 had 46 percent in support of legalization with 50 percent opposed.) But I’m still impressed with the swing in two years. The 2009 Angus Reid poll had legalization favored 53-43. That same polling company now has it favored 55-40. That’s a net +5 shift (from +10 to +15) in only two years. Not too shabby. I’m thinking now is probably not a good time to be standing too close to the Prohibition Wall, assuming you don’t want to end up buried in rubble.

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    • Duncan20903

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      Now why would you presume that the Angus Reid poll is more likely to be suffering sampling / methodology problems than the Gallup poll, or indeed that either did? Gallup says that the margin of error in their poll is plus or minus 5%. Doesn’t that mean that Gallup is saying that their 46% could be 51%? That’s an honest question. I’ve never figured out if the margin of error accepts a swing of 5% as reasonable, i.e. that the 46% could be 48.5%? (2.5 + 2.5 = 5)

      Today’s Angus Reid poll says it has a margin of error of 3.1%, so today’s 55% could reasonably be 51.9%? If that’s so we’re not looking at a large difference. Also consider that the AR poll had a choice of strongly and moderately support re-legalization but Gallop asked a simple yes or no while using a much smaller sampling than did the AR poll.

      (the Know Nothing like to claim that prop 19 lost by 8%, 54-46. they are rounding up too, the final margin was actually 53.5-46.5. I’m asserting that the margin is 3.5%, not 7% because a 3.5% plus one vote swing would have turned Prop 19 into a winner rather than a loser.)

      Of course how they ask the question is significant. “Are you for or against legalizing the gateway drug merrywanna if that will result in 6 year old school children getting addicted to heroin and force them into a life of kiddie porn/prostitution to be able to pay for their addiction?” Wow, 98% are against re-legalizing hippie lettuce. Just skip the cowbell, give me more drug war.

      Usually giving people a binary choice on this issue makes me disregard the results of a poll. When you ask someone if they’re in favor of legalizing heroin quite a significant percentage of people are going to think sales reps from the heroin factory will be setting up promotional displays and give out free samples to students in the lobbies of elementary schools, not legal as in the Swiss HAT program which does legalize heroin for their hardcore junkies. It just isn’t a simple yes or no issue. But quite frankly that makes the AR poll results even more impressive as their 55% is a sum of the categories “Strongly Support” and “Moderately Support” re-legalization. This poll would give me heartburn if the results were reversed because I think they’re understating the true support for decriminalization by not asking qualified questions. “Would you favor the limited re-legalization of heroin if it would cause property crime rates to fall off of a cliff, slice the incidence of HIV and hepatitis, would cause more junkies to enter and successfully complete rehab, and would not cause McDonald’s to include heroin in their happy meals? (would you like to super size that?)” is going to find a lot more support than “do you want to legalize crack for neurosurgeons, fork lift operators, and airplane pilots?” would.

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      • Francis

        Thanks for the reply Duncan, and I take all your points. I guess one reason I’m skeptical that the true level of support is as high as suggested by the AR poll is the results of Prop 19. (Plus I had actually heard of Gallup, not that that’s worth all that much.) Were both polls of registered / likely voters or the general population? How much do the support levels differ among those groups?

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      • BigJohn

        Duncan, it’s less likely to be accurate than the Gallup poll because it’s an online poll, that and the results are just too far off from the other polls on this issue. Most of the recent polls are showing forty some odd percent support for legalizing marijuana, nationwide. Polls from the past year or two have generally shown support somewhere in the low to mid forties, and one major poll from a year ago or so only had support in the high thirties. Typically, the highest level of support is among younger respondents, like the 18 to 29 crowd, and the older the person polled the less likely they were to support legalization. There tends to be strong opposition from those 65 and older in particular.

        In this online poll a higher percentage of those 55 and up were for legalization that of those 18 to 34. That’s a completely different result than we’ve seen in pretty much all the other polls. Support was highest in this poll among those 35 to 54, even higher than among those 18 to 34. So the young adults are the ones least likely to support legalization according to Angus Reid? Does anyone believe this?

        This isn’t a poll of a random sample. They’ve picked this panel of internet savvy people to poll, Springboard America panelists. I’m not sure how they pick their polling panels, but their 55 and older panelists are obviously a lot more progressive than those typically polled in random telephone polls.

        Support for legalization is growing. Support now is probably somewhere in the low to mid forties and it’s increasing by somewhere around a point a year. It won’t be that many years before the vast majority of all national polls are showing greater than 50% support for legalization. The results from this poll, unfortunately, are just not credible. Online polls in general aren’t as accurate as telephone polls because they’re really only polling people who are pretty computer savvy, which leaves out a whole lot of older voters who don’t use or who barely use computers, and these are people who we know from the available data to be highly likely to oppose marijuana legalization.

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      • BigJohn

        Just out of curiousity I Googled “Springboard America panelists” and came up with their website. The people polled were people who went to the website and signed up to be on the polling panel. When you get to their page, here’s the first thing you see:

        “Jump onto Springboard America Today – and watch your views take flight!

        Springboard America gives Americans like you the opportunity to speak up on what affects their daily lives – from products to politics. By joining Springboard, one of America’s leading online research communities, you’ll become eligible to receive invitations to our surveys, earn Survey Dollars and to help shape America’s future!”

        Now, looking the methodology section in a few of Angus Reid polls it appears that they use Springboard America panelists for all their US polls. There is nothing particulalry random about it. These people join for money and to “shape America’s future,” watch their views take flight. Angus Reid polls on a lot of drug war issues, and if you want to influence their poll results all you have to do is sign up at Springboard America and hope you are picked for a drug war/drug policy related poll. I doubt any policy makers take these particular polls seriously at all, because they are in no way a random sampling of the opinions of American voters. All these polls give you is an idea about what people who join Springboard America to make money and “help shape America’s future” believe.

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      • darkcycle

        Duncan, I started a reply to your question, but it didn’t even make sense to me when I read it back. Wiki is much clearer that I was so here’s the definition of “Margin of Error”:
        “The margin of error is a statistic expressing the amount of random sampling error in a survey’s results. The larger the margin of error, the less faith one should have that the poll’s reported results are close to the “true” figures; that is, the figures for the whole population. Margin of error occurs whenever a population is incompletely sampled.”

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      • Duncan20903

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        Francis, I’m almost 100% positive that the first polling company’s name that I learned was Gallup. But just because they were around in the early/middle 1970s doesn’t mean that they’re doing a great job. The problem I had with their 46% poll is it only sampled 500 people nationwide. I do confess the first thought I had last November when I saw the 46% result for passing Prop 19 was that it matched the Gallup poll. California has better than 12% of the country’s population so regardless of the poll’s methodology it’s probably pretty damn close to the country’s opinion.

        When the repeal of the medicinal cannabis patient protection law in Montana was being argued earlier this year there were a couple of polls which came up with diametrically opposed results.

        Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina, conducted the poll of 2,212 Montanans last Saturday and Sunday. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 2.1 percent.

        http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/images/blogimages/2011/02/22/1298397699-ppp-poll-2-21-11.pdf

        Public Policy Polling has a wonderful track record for seeing reality subsequently matching their poll results give or take, but well within their stated margin of error. While generally bias to the liberal side of the political highway’s double yellow lines, their track record most certainly demonstrates that they’re conducting honest polls.

        The other poll was released by 47 North Communications. 47 North based their poll results on 400 responses, only asked “support repeal yes or no” with no in between, had only been in business for less than 2 years at the time, and the one of the company’s principals was a Republican partisan that had been accused of voter fraud in 2008.

        47 North Communications is sort of a consulting firm run by Jake Eaton and Dustin Frost. Who can forget Eaton, who also landed in U.S. District Court for trying to suppress the votes of 6,000 Montanans in 2008. With his tail between his legs, Eaton resigned, left Montana, then came back hoping nobody would notice. And then there’s Frost, a Rehberg employee until he was put into a coma under his boss’s watch.

        http://mtcowgirl.com/2011/02/27/rightwingers-trying-to-%E2%80%98poll%E2%80%99-wool-over-our-eyes/
        http://helenair.com/news/article_b5bb627c-3af8-11df-bb11-001cc4c03286.html

        1. Recently the Montana House of Representatives voted to repeal Montana’s Medical Marijuana laws, making medical marijuana illegal in Montana. Please tell me if you support or oppose the repeal?

        Support Repeal: 49%
        Oppose Repeal: 44%
        Undecided: 7%
        http://www.northernbroadcasting.com/Talk/FlintReportHeadlines/tabid/519/ID/2734/Dissecting-the-Medical-Marijuana-Polls.aspx

        It’s not completely a matter of criticizing the pollsters for their methodology. There have been a couple of events that have led me to believe that the retail cannabis market is orders of magnitude larger than anyone thinks. For example The California Board of Equalization said that in 2010 the State pocketed more than $100 million in sales tax collected by their authorized medicinal cannabis vendors. Even at 8.25% that represents well into a billion in gross sales revenue. You have my personal guarantee that the CBOE has barely scratched the surface of the total cannabis market in California. The industry is still nascent and cash is the medium of exchange in the great majority of transactions. I don’t think it unreasonable to say that every penny in sales tax that they collected in 2010 from the medicinal cannabis vendors was volunteered rather than compelled. I would be shocked to learn that even as much as 5% of California’s gross cannabis sales actually had the sales tax due captured and my opinion is that it’s less than 2.5%. If it was 5% we’re looking at a better than $25 billion market size in California alone, and better than $50 billion at 2.5%. There are people who think Jeff Miron’s numbers are exaggerated, but if I’m not missing something salient, his numbers are actually severely understated.

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      • Duncan20903

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        All right BigJohn, give me a minute, I have to go bitch slap Pete for not including a link. (slap – – – ouch!) OK, I think he’s learned his lesson.

        I hadn’t realized it was an online only poll and I fully blame Pete for that oversight. :) That missing bit of information closes the gap between the two in my mind, though I still think that 500 people nationwide just isn’t broad enough.

        Still, I believe we’re going to see a complete reversal among the older folks in the next couple of years. The thing that really pissed me off about the monkey business in the Montana legislature was that the Montana DPHHS is that they broke out the ages of the cardholders. To the best of my knowledge the only place to easily find that information. There were 13 cardholders over the age of 90 on the last release. 94 older than 81, 429 older than 71 and 2807 older than 61. Yes older than age 61 includes those older than 90, 81, and 71. Unfortunately I can’t link to that information anymore. But my point is that when people are sick they’re a lot more open minded if they figure out that they needn’t suffer. What the baby boomers want, the baby boomers get, and it’s only a matter of time until the baby boomers want medicinal cannabis.

        Majority or not the fact that we’re pushing 50% really does feel good after living 2 1/2 decades with support being at 30% more or less.

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  • Francis

    “Democrats (the voters) support marijuana legalization even though Democrats (the politicians) do not.”

    That’s certainly a fair point. But I think we should also point out that the poll found that a significant minority (41%) of Republicans supported legalization. Needless to say, that’s significantly higher than the percentage of Republican politicians that support legalization. Republicans claim to be the party of “limited government” and “personal responsibility.” In many other contexts when the government passes laws ostensibly to protect citizens from themselves (e.g., banning trans fats or public smoking), Republicans are (in my view, rightly) quick to complain about “paternalism” and the “nanny-state.” I think we should hold them to their rhetoric.

    I also think we do ourselves a disservice when we allow drug policy reform to be painted as a partisan issue and support for continuing prohibition as the “official conservative position.” When you accept that premise and then attempt to convince a self-identified conservative to change his views on the drug war, you’re essentially asking him to change his entire world view. (Not an easy task.) Compare that task with convincing him that support for drug policy reform is not incompatible with conservatism or, better yet, is the true conservative position. (And again as noted above I don’t think there’s anything dishonest about the latter argument.)

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  • ConservativeChristian

    Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.
    If ordinary Americans could grow a little marijuana in their own back yards, it would be about as valuable as home-grown tomatoes. Let’s put the criminals out of business and get them out of our neighborhoods. Let’s let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards.
    Here’s one way that IT IS REALLY WORKING: Arresting the criminals and collecting a fee from registered growers (and bringing in thousands of dollars to support the county budget); what a great plan! This is the way to build a better America! http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/2011/07/the-pot-republic-one-sheriffs-quietly-radical-experiment.html
    The current proposal before Congress, bill HR 2306, will allow states to decide how they will regulate marijuana. Email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml and ask them to sign on as a CO-SPONSOR of HR 2306.
    And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!

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  • Capo

    Duncan said it, but it bears repeating. 40 years of propaganda has changed the definition of “legalize” to mean something akin to forcing people to take drugs. In all of my arguments about drug legalization, I’ve found that that term is the one thing that turns people away from the argument in favor. Once you say legalize, you lose them. (Decriminalize seems to have a similar affect too).

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  • Ed Dunkle

    As soon as 67% of all voters approve of legalizing marijuana, Obama will feel comfortable enough to consider reclassifying it. (Notice how he didn’t say a thing about gun control even after a congresswoman got shot at point blank range? The issue doesn’t poll well for him.)

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    • Windy

      Obama won’t be in office long enough for the population to reach that figure for support of legalization, he has only one year left of his term and he will NOT be re-elected.

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    • Duncan20903

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      Wasn’t she a Republican? Anyway, we don’t need gun control. If we eliminate merrywanna it will do much more. Didn’t you hear that the shooter was a wacko because he smoked pot years ago? Not having a trace of cannabis in his system at the time he was committed to the local jail seems unimportant to the equation.

      The Know Nothing prohibitionist says, “Pot kills!! What we need is to use the death penalty, and that will put a stop to the killing!

      I’m still waiting for the start of the war on war.

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  • Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body. Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws. I drew up a very cool poster for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/01/vote-teapot-2011.html Drop in and let me know what you think!

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  • MaineGeezer

    I find the term “regulated sale” is less of a hot button than “legalized.”

    Join LEAP! It’s free, and they are a very credible voice speaking against drug prohibition. http://www.leap.cc

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  • vickyvampire

    I feel like its ground hog Day movie I wake up and it the same story a county in Calif. city council decides to shut down Medical Marijuana Dispensaries,sends out notices and then are sued and a judge over turns it. Happened in San Diego now I’m reading on net its happening to a handful of counties in CA this folks are relentless.they say it for safety,yet are wasting loads of Money on this when country is still in recession and not really get better.

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2011/08/glendale-bans-medical-marijuana-dispensaries.html

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  • vickyvampire

    I tried link before it went to LA times not working now,and similar link worked then not,

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  • dt

    “64% think America has a serious drug abuse problem that affects the whole country.”

    Where are all these people supposedly in the throes of drug addiction? I have yet to meet someone who fits the stereotype – someone on an endless stimulant binge or unable to stop taking depressants without going through withdrawal. I know such people are out there, but my failure to meet them shows that the problem does not affect “the whole county.”

    I’ve seen unhealthy drug use, but only in an otherwise mentally unhealthy person.

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  • B-roll

    Now where is the percentage of republicans

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  • Is it just me or am I seeing a growing trend where even if a majority of the citizens feel a certain way on some issues the powers that be ignore it? If so we’re really going to have to find another title for our type of government instead of “democracy”.

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  • We can talk about legalizing marijuana and the War on Drugs all we want, but until we wage war on the DEMAND for drugs, there will always be suppliers. No severity of consequence will stop people from making money supplying drugs, so the only effective means to curb this issue is to curb the demand. This means better education about drugs, addiction and alcoholism that must start at an early age and continue throughout life. People forget that addicition isn’t a selective disease – it is a human condition that has plagued our kind for thousands of years.

    But today, things could be different. With electronic media and the ease of communication it provides, we already have the best weapon possible in the War on Drug DEMAND, the question is, when will we start using it?

    There’s an excellent article on curbing demand relative to the War on Drugs here:

    http://recoveryfirst.org/the-real-war-on-drugs.html/

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  • With powder and crack cocaine being asked about- what about Coca?

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