Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Poll: Americans Don't Want Marijuana Users, Growers or Sellers Arrested By Feds

Reason-Rupe poll finds overwhelming opposition to federal marijuana arrests in states that legalize it and a majority of Americans favor treating marijuana like alcohol


Last November voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, but the drug remains illegal under federal law. As the Obama administration contemplates how to deal with society's growing acceptance of marijuana, a new Reason-Rupe poll finds an overwhelming number of Americans believe people should be free to use, grow and sell marijuana if their states have legalized the drug.

As Jacob Sullum wrote earlier, if a state legalizes marijuana, 72 percent of Americans believe the federal government should not arrest marijuana users in that state, while 24 percent think the federal government should arrest them. Seventy-seven percent of those who approve of the job President Obama is doing say the federal government should not arrest marijuana users in Colorado and Washington.

Similarly, 68 percent, say the federal government should not arrest marijuana growers in states that have legalized the drug. Twenty-nine percent say growers should still be arrested under federal law in those states.

Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, of Americans say the federal government should not arrest marijuana sellers in states that have legalized marijuana, while 32 percent feel sellers should be arrested by the feds.

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.

The Reason-Rupe poll also finds a majority of Americans, 53 percent, agree that marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol, while 45 percent disagree.  Fifty-eight percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats favor treating marijuana like alcohol. Meanwhile just 35 percent of Republicans favor treating marijuana like alcohol, 62 percent oppose doing so.  Interestingly, a majority of Independent-leaning Republicans favor treating marijuana like alcohol while fully partisan Republicans are the only political group in opposition.

Overall, Reason-Rupe finds 49 percent oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use and 47 percent support legalizing it. That finding is within the poll's margin of error, which is plus or minus 3.8 percent. Democrats narrowly oppose legalizing marijuana (48-46) and Republicans overwhelmingly oppose legalizing marijuana (70-25).  Yet Independents, including majorities of both Independent-leaning Democrats and Independent-leaning Republicans favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use 71-28 and 53-46 respectively. Similarly, men favor legalizing it (52-45) but women oppose it (53-42). All age groups 64-years-old and younger support legalizing marijuana but people 65 and older oppose it (67-29).

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 1,000 adults on mobile (500) and landline (500) phones from January 17-21, 2013. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide survey. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%Full methodology can be found here. Full poll results found here.

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

NEXT: Obama's Job Council Shuts Down

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  1. Like the Feds give a fuck what the people want.

  2. Obviously these people do not know what’s good for them. Nothing that can’t be solved with more Public Service Announcements.

  3. Nonsense. Obama has been targeting all those people. Are you suggesting, Emily, that Obama isn’t doing what the people want? That’s racist!

  4. Speaking of federalism:…..-measures/

    The [Wyoming] House voted in favor of a bill that would seek to block the federal government from restricting assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It amended the bill to specify that federal officials who tried to enforce any ban would be subject to state misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges.…..-measures/

    The bill co-sponsored by state Sen. Don Shooter, four other senators and several members of the House of Representatives would bar enforcement of new federal laws affecting semi-automatic firearms or high-capacity magazines. It also makes any federal official trying to enforce such laws guilty of a felony and allows the state Attorney General to defend anyone prosecuted for violating federal gun laws if the gun was made in Arizona, among other provisions.

  5. No word on whether or not Americans want the feds to shoot their dogs?

  6. the drug remains illegal under federal law.


    There is no constitutional authority for any form of drug prohibition.


    1. “General welfare… regulate commerce… necessary and proper”

      I think that justifies pretty much anything anyone can imagine.

    2. Musta missed Amendment Because Fuck You, That’s Why.

  7. They may support that, but they voted for Hopey Changey, so I am sure he will take it under advisement right after he tells them to fuck off.

  8. Since when does it matter what Americans want??? I seem to remember something about a petition to the White House regarding legalization of whacky tobacky that was ignored.

  9. I thought those activities not specified as federal in the Constitution were reserved to the several states?

    Is there any constitutional authority for passing federal drug laws?

  10. @sarcasmic. You say: “General welfare… regulate commerce… necessary and proper” None of these are specific, they are general, VERY general.

    Yet doesn’t the Constitution say anything not specifically identified as Federal is reserved to the several states? So where’s the specific authority?

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