Marijuana remains illegal for any purpose under federal law, despite the voters of Colorado and Washington legalizing in those two states — but a new poll finds a huge majority of Americans believe people should be free to use, grow and sell cannabis if their states have legalized it.
The Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey, just out, found that 72 percent of respondents said the federal government should not arrest people who use marijuana in the states which have legalized it, reports Jacob Sullum at Reason. And by a 2-to-1 margin, respondents said the feds shouldn’t arrest legal growers or sellers of the herb, either.
The federal government has, so far, been kind of vague about exactly what they plan to do regarding the legalization grassfire that’s breaking out in the American heartland. President Obama said there are “no plans” to go after pot smokers, but there hasn’t been an official statement on how state-licensed growers and retailers might be treated.
Perhaps bespeaking the recalcitrant nature of the American electorate, opposition to federal interference was even stronger than support for legalization. While 47 percent supported “legalizing marijuana for recreational use” and 53 percent said “the government should treat marijuana the same as alcohol,” a whopping 68 percent said the federal government should leave state-legal growers alone, and 64 percent said the same about state-legal sellers.
Most Republicans and self-identified conservatives opposed marijuana legalization, but most of them also also revealed a federalist streak, the federal government should not try to impose that policy in Colorado and Washington. A CBS News poll last November found even stronger federalist sentiment among Republicans, 65 percent saying states should determine whether marijuana is legal, compared to 55 percent of Democrats — even though Democrats are more likely to say cannabis should be legal (51 percent vs. 27 percent).
Support for legalizing marijuana in the Reason-Rupe poll was stronger among Democrats (57 percent of whom said it should be treated similarly to alcohol) than among Republicans (35 percent), more popular among progressives (72 percent) and libertarians (86 percent) than among conservatives (39 percent), and more popular among people under 65 (ranging from 53 percent support among those 45 to 54, to 58 percent support among those 35 to 44) than among people of retirement age (41 percent).
“Republicans usually make the case for federalism, but in all three instances — smoking, growing, selling — Reason-Rupe finds higher numbers of independents and Democrats embrace the federalist argument that the federal government should stand down in states that have legalized marijuana,” said Emily Elkins, director of polling for Reason Foundation, where she leads the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project.