Drug Policy

Legalize Pot? No. Treat Pot Like Alcohol? Yes.


Over at The Huffington Post, Reason contributor Ryan Grim argues that press coverage of a recent Roper/CNBC poll understated the public's support for marijuana legalization. The news stories highlighted the fact that 55 percent of respondents said they opposed "the complete legalization of the use of marijuana for any purpose," while only 33 percent said they supported that policy. But when the respondents were asked to think about the legal treatment of alcohol, 56 percent said the regulations for marijuana should either be the same or less strict. Coincidentally, that's the same as the percentage of Californians who recently told SurveyUSA they support an initiative on the November ballot that would legalize pot.

I'm aware of only one other nationwide poll that has found majority support for legalizing pot (as opposed to decriminalizing possession of small amounts): a May 2009 Zogby poll in which 52 percent of respondents backed the idea. As I explained at the time, the sample (which was"weighted to match the 2008 presidential outcome—54 percent Obama voters and 46 percent McCain supporters"), may have been biased in favor of reform, and the setup to the question was slanted against prohibition. The new poll does not seem to have either of those problems.

Here's a result that should interest those who think playing up the tax revenue to be gained by legalizing marijuana is a good strategy: When the respondents were asked how they would feel "if state governments were to tax the sale of marijuana and use it to pay for state programs and services," their support fell quite dramatically, from 33 percent to 14 percent. I myself am not very fond of the tax argument (or of the "programs and services" likely to be funded by new tax revenue), so I rather like that finding. But I have to admit that the 33 percent favoring "complete legalization" may have included a lot of pot smokers who don't want to pay taxes.

The detailed results of the Roper poll are here (PDF). More on pot polling here. Reason.tv recently offered three reasons to legalize pot.

[Thanks to Tom Angell at LEAP for the tip.]


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  1. The current trend in the US is anti-smoking. As soon as pot legal, it will be a target for the no smoking crowd too, including one’s employer and mandated health plan.

    I’m all for it. But legalization will not mean acceptance. At least it wouldn’t be a crime.

    1. Uh, puritanical in general.
      Bad news is a majority thinking we should treat alcohol the same or MORE strict.

      1. They’re mad , MADD i tell ya!

    2. I will settle for legalization.

  2. their support fell quite dramatically, from 33 percent to 14 percent

    Better ‘bite: It brings opposition up to 74%. That’s halfway between Obamacare and “nuke Israel.”

    There’s a lot of crypto-Confederates out here, I guess.

  3. POLL QUESTION: How many human lives would you be willing to sacrifice to continue the War On Drugs?

    1) 1000
    2) 10,000
    3) 1,000,000
    4) 10,000,000

    1. Yes, but how many of those are “badguys”?

      1. 10million badguys IS a LOT of badguys….

        1. If you smoke marijuana, you are a bad guy.

          1. Do Mexicans count as people?

            1. According to the 14th amendment, Asians don’t count as people.

              1. +1300000000

              2. The Census will root them out.

              3. but corporations do.

    2. Let’s ask Mexico how many more have to die before politicians wake up and see the carnage they have created over marihuana prohibition. How many more must die?

    3. I would be willing to sacrifice none for the war on marijuana but I would be willing to sacrifice at least 1 more to continue the fight on shit like cocaine, meth stuff that will kill you. Alcohol and cigarettes are more harmful than marijuana. Marijuana may have more carcinogens than cigarettes but it is not the carcinogens that cause cancer. they only thing carcinogens do is build up some tar and that slightly lowers lung capacity other than that no problem. check out this site look at some statistics

  4. Sooo close.

    If you’er going to repost the video every day this week do it @ 4:20, will ya?

    1. You try posting on H&R with the massive bong they have to use to access the website. Takes at least 3 people 30mins to finish the post.

  5. Nick looks like he is REM deprived.

    1. How do you manage to sleep well? Wait, don’t tell me. Market that shit!

      1. Well, for one, maintaining contact with those who help me celebrate 4/20!

        1. I’d want a subscription to your newsletter, but I’m pretty sure i already have a copy somewhere here…

    2. Nick lives in Ohio. I’d have nightmares too.

  6. Posted by whom?

  7. Because of the broad support for free healthcare, I can imagine that voters will favor legalizing “medical marijuana” because in their minds, this intersects with people “geting more healthcare”.

    However, my feeling is that people are still skittish about marijuana being legal, willy-nilly, for simply everyone to smoke, come one, come all.

    As Matt Welch so aptly put: freedom is a scary thing, especially when exercised by others.

    Personally, I would be satisfied with broad legalization of Marijuana if treated like alcohol.

    I do not trust the medicalization of marijuana.

    1. However, my feeling is that people are still skittish about marijuana being legal, willy-nilly, for simply everyone to smoke, come one, come all…

      Has this been proposed? Anywhere?

      1. Unfortunately, no. Well, not recently that I recall. I can’t give you a 50 year history on attempts to legalize marijuana and all their forms.

        But that doesn’t change my point. People are skittish about it. Perhaps I can point you to Reason’s coverage on the “wild west” of marijuana dispensaries in L.A. and how everyone seems to agree that they need to be reeled in. Why? Because… well… they need to… or something.

        Within that coverage you might even find that people are concerned that ‘healthy young men’ seem to be smoking the Medical Weed, not bald chem-addled cancer patients.

        Again, people seem to be comfortable with Marijuana as medicine, but not something we might smoke, to you know, get high– like the guy who has a double vodka gimlet when he comes home from the office.

        1. The ballot initiative in CA (in November) is to legalize it with regulation similar to alcohol.

  8. Historic statewide initiative in California to legalize, control, and tax cannabis. Help build national support for the movement. Sign up on the website, join the campaign! taxcannabis.org

    1. Marijuana has already been taxed.

      It’s been a tool to merely add charges to people caught with illegal weed.

      Charge one: Illegal posession of marijuana.
      Charge two: Tax evasion.

      This whole focus on ‘taxing’ marijuana is odd, to me.

      Let’s legalize first, and figure out that tax system after.

      1. Plus, since it’s a ‘tax’ and not a criminal penalty, you can collect it without regard to the constitutional protections of criminal defendants, and you don’t have to await the outcome of the criminal trial (if any) or respect a verdict of Not Guilty.

    2. I’d love to vote to legalize it, but the libertarian in me cringes at the thought of subjecting it to the taxation whims of hundreds of local jurisdictions all over the state.

      The whole “let’s tax it and make money for our broken state” argument is disingenuous at best, and I’d rather force my state and local governments to spend less, not vote for new taxes to help bail them out.

      1. All good points. Still, what this bill proposes if preferable to criminal prohibition.

        1. I’m still not convinced of that.

      2. Why not do both: legalize MJ AND force your politicians to be fiscally responsible.

        1. It’s *California*.

          That’d be like forcing Oprah to marry Steadman… not gonna happen.

  9. No, you statist shill.

  10. How ’bout we legalize marijuana (with restrictions similar to alcohol) with a federal tax that can only be used to pay down the national debt. I envision a wave of folks determined to do their civic duty to eliminate our financial burden.

  11. I can’t help but wonder if most people who are pro-pot push for “tax and regulate” to avoid being whitewashed as anarchist hippies. “Yes, I want it legalized- but I ABSOLUTELY want Daddy Gov to regulate the hell out of it! See… I’m still a responsible citizen…”

    Either that or they think they need to bribe legislators with tax dollars.

    1. I just want it to be treated and taxed like alcohol which is farrrr more dangerous and causes far more deaths than all the illegal drugs…combined !!!

  12. Legal or illegal I still buy my 1/4 ounce evry two weeks. The laws against it have not nor do they seem to be able to stop that. So why waste our time with the suspense of if “they’ll” legalize it or not. “They” have no real power when it comes to stopping people who want to smoke pot from smoking pot. They only have the power of being pests.

    1. sorry I meant to say 1/2 ounce. :.)

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