A.P. Poll Finds Falling Resistance to Marijuana Legalization


A new A.P. poll finds that the number of Americans who oppose marijuana legalization has fallen dramatically in the last few years. In a survey completed last week, 29 percent of respondents said they opposed "legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use," compared to 55 percent in 2010. A.P. notes that the 2010 survey was conducted by phone, while the new one was conducted online, a method that tends to boost neutral responses. The share of respondents who said they "neither favor nor oppose" legalizing marijuana tripled between 2010 and 2013, while the percentage favoring legalization rose only slightly. Still, the A.P. numbers are consistent with other surveys in finding increased receptiveness to repealing marijuana prohibition.

The most dramatic of those results was Gallup's finding in October that 58 percent of Americans think "the use of marijuana should be made legal." That was the highest level of support for legalization ever found by a Gallup poll. But like the question used by A.P., Gallup's wording suggests a relatively narrow reform that does not necessarily include legalizing commercial production and distribution, as Colorado and Washington have done. Whether that policy receives majority support depends on how the question is worded. In the most recent Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey, for example, 49 percent of respondents said yes to "legalizing marijuana," while 47 percent said no. But in a Reason-Rupe poll conducted in January, 53 percent of respondents said "the government should treat marijuana the same as alcohol." 

Similarly, 56 percent of respondents in a 2010 A.P.-CNBC poll said regulations for marijuana should be either the same as or less strict than regulations for alcohol. A 2011 YouGov/Economist poll found a similar level of support (58 percent) for treating marijuana like alcohol. Meanwhile, just 36 percent of the respondents in this month's A.P. survey were prepared to voice support merely for "legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use."

What's going on here? Looking at the differences between the A.P. and Gallup results, it may be that "possession" (which is, after all, currently a crime) triggers more negative associations than "use" (which is not in itself defined as a crime, although it obviously entails possession). And why does "legalizing marijuana," which could mean anything from not arresting users to completely repealing prohibition, get less support than treating marijuana like alcohol, which necessarily means legalizing production and sale as well as possession? Likening marijuana to alcohol evokes a familiar legal model and suggests a moral equivalency that is hard to deny. That was the approach that reformers took in Colorado and Washington, and legalization got about 55 percent of the vote in both states.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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    1. God it would have been hilarious to toke up with George Washington or James Madison.

      1. Bullshit, you’d be hanging out with Grant, doing bourbon shots and bumping lines of coke.

        1. I didn’t say that wouldn’t be awesome, I just said getting stoned with GW would be hilarious. We could go chop down a cherry tree laughing our asses off the whole time.

    2. Holy shit JFK! If he hadn’t died from a bullet, he may well not have lived out his terms as President anyhow. (also Adultery is a drug?)

      1. America would have been so much better off if JFK did ignominiously of a drug overdose.

        We wouldn’t have those Cult of Kennedy and the Cult of the Presidency in general would be pretty much destroyed, at least until Reagan came around.

        1. But it might have amped up the drug war earlier, because of such a high profile overdose. Who knows. You are right that it would be wonderful to have stained the shit out of the cult of the presidency, though.

          1. I’m amazed that none of the Presidents other than Kennedy apparently liked opiates.

            1. Oops. Replied to the wrong comment.

              I’m not stoned right now. Honest.

    3. for the browser-impaired, a larger pic….._w1500.png

    4. Some of these seem a little ridiculous. Why is ‘Adultery’ included as a drug?
      Garfield’s drugs include lasagna. A joke about the name, I suppose.

      I’m wondering how many of these were only used medicinally. Cocaine was a popular medicine at the end of the 19th Century.
      They list cortisone for Kennedy. It is true that he took it, but that’s because he would’ve died without it. I don’t see how it could ever be considered a recreational drug. Trust me– I’ve been taking it since I was fourteen, and there are no mental effects at all.
      If they really felt that medications should be included, then there is a lot they missed. Reagan for instance, had two types of cancer, and he was shot. Surely he took several drugs for those that aren’t listed.

  1. So far I have yet to get a coherent answer from a drug warrior when I ask them to give me an argument in favor of keeping marijuana illegal that could not also be used as an argument to prohibit alcohol.

    1. “Because…because I like alcohol!”

      1. No, it’s always because “we tried to do that, and it didn’t work.” Which is applicable to marijuana as well, but not if you live in la-la land.

    2. The standard answer I get on that is ‘alcohol is more ingrained in our culture than marijuana and it would take more draconian steps to prohibit it.’

    3. I used to work with a drug warrior that was surprisingly consistent. He wanted to bring back alcohol prohibition.

  2. I see this mentions an A.P. poll. I think Reason should do some of their own polls. Maybe team up with someone else to do the polling.

    1. Maybe get a photogenic blonde to do it. That would be cool.

    2. Sarc, I see we are on the same page. They would also have to somehow avoid the very real danger of an H&R reader missing posts about the poll results.

    3. They could post all the results at once. That way no one would miss them.

    4. But they should also post the results multiple times, just to be sure.

  3. Legalisation or Decriminalisation?

  4. Why is the discussion always about how “we” should handle marijuana. Why is government even in the business of handling marijuana. or alcohol. or any fucking thing else people might want to ingest? Why do people accept this proposition? Why do pro-liberty, pro-self ownership people even engage assholes in this false debate??? Why do we, you even accept the proposition that “society” should even have a voice at all in what you and I want to put into our bodies? There is nothing to fucking debate. You either believe you own yourself or you don’t. It is not more nuanced than that.

  5. Any argument for pot that can be used as an argument against alcohol is getting nowhere with me. Fuck you, legalize both (alcohol sure as hell isn’t legalized).

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