Poll Finds Most Americans Support Legal Pot and Oppose Treating Drug Users As Criminals


A new Pew Research Center poll confirms that most Americans (54 percent) think marijuana should be legal and finds that an even bigger majority (75 percent) believes pot prohibition eventually will be repealed throughout the country. More than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) agreed with President Obama that alcohol is more hazardous to health than marijuana, while just 15 percent said marijuana is more dangerous. Three-quarters of respondents said people should not go to jail for smoking pot.

Respondents also expressed reservations about criminalizing the use of other drugs. Two-thirds said the government should "focus more" on "providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine," rather than prosecuting them. Although that question leaves no room for heroin or cocaine users who are neither criminals nor patients, it does suggest a less punitive attitude than previous polls have found, which is consistent with rising support for moving away from mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Sixty-three percent of respondents deemed that trend "a good thing" in this year's poll, up from 47 percent nin 2001. Pew concludes that "the public appears ready for a truce in the long-running war on drugs." More like a de-escalation, I'd say, but still encouraging.