Poll Commissioned by Pot Prohibitionists Shows How Unpopular Pot Prohibition Is

A survey by an anti-marijuana group finds that only 16 percent of Americans support the current federal policy.



"Half of Americans now support alternatives to full legalization of recreational marijuana use," the anti-pot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) says in a press release about a poll it commissioned. That spin, which casts "full legalization" as the default option, speaks volumes about the evolution of public opinion on this issue. What SAM's poll actually found is that federal marijuana prohibition is extremely unpopular.

For years SAM has argued that polls finding majority support for legalizing cannabis are misleading because it's not clear exactly what policy respondents have in mind. Surveys generally ask, "Do you think that the use of marijuana should be legal, or not?" That is the wording used by Gallup, the Pew Research Center, Quinnipiac University, the General Social Survey, and CBS News. But a yes answer to that question could signify support for a range of policies, from eliminating penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana to allowing commercial production and distribution.

The options in SAM's survey are more specific. The results are interesting, although probably not quite what an organization dedicated to scaring people about Big Marijuana wanted to see.

Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy, the firm hired by SAM, asked 1,000 respondents which of four policies "best describes your preference on national marijuana policy." Sixteen percent chose "keep the current policy," while 29 percent preferred to "legalize the use of marijuana for physician-supervised medical use." Only 5 percent wanted to "decriminalize marijuana use by removing the possibility of jail time for possession and also allowing for medical marijuana, but keep the sale of marijuana illegal." Forty-nine percent were ready for full legalization, saying the federal government should "legalize the commercial production, use and sale of marijuana for recreational use, as they have done recently in several states."

As Vox's German Lopez notes, the SAM poll indicates that more than four-fifths of Americans are unhappy with the current federal policy, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no legitimate use. Furthermore, full legalization was by far the most popular option, supported by nearly half of the respondents. But that is still lower than the percentages saying "the use of marijuana should be legal" in recent polls by Gallup (64 percent), Pew (61 percent), and Quinnipiac (58 percent). The SAM results are consistent with the premise that some of the people who agree with that statement support a more restrictive policy than the one adopted by the eight states that license and regulate marijuana growers, distributors, and retailers.

Then again, polls that framed the question a bit differently have found majority support for tolerating cannabis capitalism. In a 2014 CNN poll, for instance, 54 percent of respondents said "the sale of marijuana should be made legal." That same year, a survey commissioned by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal indicated that 55 percent of Americans would support a law that "allowed adults to purchase small quantities of marijuana for their own personal use from regulated, state-licensed businesses." A 2013 Reason-Rupe survey found that 53 percent of Americans thought "the government should treat marijuana the same as alcohol."

Even if we ignore these other surveys, SAM's poll indicates that the group opposing criminal penalties for possession but supporting them for cultivation and distribution is pretty small—one-third as big as the group that favors the current federal policy, which was the second least popular option. If SAM was hoping to find support for a policy that lets people use marijuana but not buy it, this poll has to be disappointing. The fact that only 5 percent of respondents supported such halfway decriminalization—a policy that had wide support until pretty recently, despite its moral and practical illogic—may be this poll's most striking finding.

NEXT: The Supreme Court's Big Public Sector Union Case Is Really About Free Speech

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Maybe their poll shows that Americans don’t think the prohibition rules go far enough.

    1. Start earning $90/hourly for working online from your home for few hours each day… Get regular payment on a weekly basis… All you need is a computer, internet connection and a litte free time…
      Read more here…..

    2. Yeah, the Phillippine option wasn’t listed.

    3. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do…

  2. They should ask “Do you want to be told what to do?”

    1. That might not work out the way we’d hope…

      1. Freedom from having to make decisions-what could be better!

    2. “Do you want to be told what to do?”

      There’s a little more to it than that, I think (and I also fear what the answer to that question would be).

      “Do you want to be violently assaulted, possibly murdered, have your money stolen and be locked in a cage and likely raped because of the substances you choose to ingest?”

  3. Okay, but those 16% are all old people, and are therefore the only ones in the survey who vote.

    1. There should really be a maximum age for voting. Old people worry too much.

      1. “Everybody over 30 should be killed!!” Sounds like a movie that was made back in the late sixties!

        1. 1976 you mean.

    2. Not all “old people” want pot to be illegal. Don’t forget it is the “old people” that went to Woodstock and followed the Grateful Dead and protested the war in Viet Nam. I promise the drug war did not make these people happy.

      Many people had to stop smoking pot because of drug testing in the work place. The small percentage of people who say keep the policy in place probably don’t smoke pot or never did and they don’t really think much about it. Some of them maybe older some of them may be Christians and they also maybe of the few who have not had someone they care about locked up for pot related charges and convictions.

      I am older I am for total legalization. I want the whole drug war thing to end. The ratio of addict to non addict in the general population has not changed for centuries. The war on drugs does not stop drug use it just creates more misery buy separating families and making criminals in charge of the distribution.

      I guess the pollsters minds were blown to find that the majority of people who answered their poll were not for prohibition.

      1. Just got tickets to Dead and Comapny ay Alpine for this June. It’s not the same without Jerry, but still better than most of the other shit out there.

  4. A 2013 Reason-Rupe survey found that 53 percent of Americans thought “the government should treat marijuana the same as alcohol.”

    So i’d have to go to a badly lit state-run store and pay way too much money for it?

    1. No, you just pick up a six pack of plastic jug vodka during your next trip to the supermarke– oh wait, you live in one of those shithol* states, don’t you?

      1. If “alcohol” means wine or beer and i can pick up some dank nugs at the Kroger on my way home, that’s awesome; if “alcohol” means liquor and i have to go to the ABC store in the ghetto that’s only open weird hours, less so.

        1. You still have to go to the likker store for everything where I live except 3.0 beer. I think we changed the law to be slightly more liberal sometime in the future, though, against the wishes of the likker store lobby. The Trader Joe’s lobby won out.

          1. If I remember the wording on the ballot question properly, wine and strong beer become legal in grocery stores in October (almost exactly two years after the law was passed– I still have no idea why they chose such a long delay for it to take effect).

            That’s assuming Tony and I are in the same state (I’m pretty sure he’s mentioned it here before).

            The law also raised the minimum age to work in a store selling beer from 18 to 21. So they couldn’t even allow this tiny bit more freedom without removing some other freedom to balance it.

          2. And I’m sure you revel in this display of raw, misguided government power, even as you despise the fact that it’s doing something you hate.

          3. I like the use of “liberal” here as these restrictions are the remnants of Prohibition, one of the great Progressive social experiments of the 20th century.

            1. Well, the progressives were anything but liberal.

          4. That sounds like where I am, Tony. I’m in KS. What state are you in (if you are willing to say)?

            1. Look directly south.

        2. I must say the VABC stores turn me off from wanting to buy booze-which is probably their intent. Unfortunately, they will never die since the state makes too much money off them.

          1. Same. I have a variety of bottles of liquor in my cabinet but don’t touch them often. Part of that is because ABC is inconvenient for me and the prices suck

      2. Well, you have to pay for plastic bags. Though liquor in grocery stores is definitely one of the few things CA gets right.

    2. Or, you can go to the grocery store that’s well lit, and pay 20.5% tax on it.

  5. Of course, as our Labor Prohibitionist colleagues would tell us, all we need to do is to put different Top Men in charge to implement a better strategy, perhaps involving building giant walls, letting potheads die in the desert, and prosecuting people who offer to voluntarily help addicts, and then certainly Drug Prohibitionism will be just as successful as Labor Prohibitionism.

  6. I hate the smell of pot, thankfully when ever I’m around people that smoke it they do it in their garage or whatever. Don’t get the point of it anyway, seems like more a stupid teenager thing to do.

    Although it shouldn’t be illegal, if someone wants to do that it’s their business.

    1. Fucking “I hate the smell of” people. Do I get to tell my guests wearing Axe Body Spray to kindly confine themselves to the garage?

      And don’t get me started with the “You made me sneeze, you’re basically Hitler!” crap.

      Oh, you smoke weed because it’s fun. It makes nature documentaries even awesomer. Or if like you’re a cancer patient and it’s vital medication for you.

        1. At the same time, the text of the law does not explicitly state that marijuana smoke will be treated the same as tobacco smoke under the indoor smoking ban. This may seem like a minor point, but for D.C.’s many renting residents, the slight distinction has an important effect. Some residents who thought they were moving into smoke-free apartments are now finding that their apartments smell like their neighbors pot habit.


          1. This is where I become a libertarian. Odors resulting from normal individual behavior have always been dealt with by etiquette, not law, and I see no reason to have changed that.

            1. Getting crushed by the zillion pound hammer of government is the place where most people become a libertarian.

              1. You can reliably predict Tony’s hobbies based on the few things he’s a “libertarian on”.

          2. Most pot enthusiasts will go to great lengths to tell you that the smoke they blow out is good for you.

            1. You think? I guess it depends on who you mean by “enthusiasts”. I don’t think most smokers actually believe that the burning plant matter is a health-positive thing.

            2. I’m a beer enthusiast, does that mean I can piss on a pot head and tell him its good for him? /sarc

              1. Well, you can do that.

          3. How do they know they are smoking and not vaporizing?

      1. Why would you not be allowed to tell your guests wearing Axe Body Spray to leave and commit seppuku like any rational person would?

        1. Why be rude when they’ll all be dead from douche-related mishaps soon anyway?

        2. Given how few people will voluntarily visit Tony’s dwelling, he can’t afford to be choosy.

          1. Excellent point. Tony should go on tour and meet some of us personally. His “libertarian” instincts are very limited. Come on over, Tony.

      2. Do I get to tell my guests wearing Axe Body Spray to kindly confine themselves to the garage?
        Yes? I can’t imagine your guests would be happy with you, but assuming it’s your name on the lease or mortgage, you could totally not let guests into the house proper, keeping ’em in the garage.

  7. Even now Kevin Sabet is rehearsing a good spin for this result in case anyone brings it up at a party. Now all he needs is to ever be invited to a party.

    1. After getting stomped in the 2016 election where pot won 8 of 9 races, Sabet claimed he was “ecstatic” about his single victory in AZ. That’s like a football coach with a 1-8 record crowing over their only win.

  8. Who cares what a majority of Americans think? If a majority of Americans thought it was a-ok to enslave a particular racial minority would that make it a-ok?

    1. It’s always useful to have a reminder that politicians who claim to represent the interests of their constituents don’t.

      1. That’s true, except the majority always seem to just shrug reminders like that off.

    2. Who cares what a majority of Americans think?
      The SCOTUS.

      It’s often leery of getting “ahead of the curve” on social issues. The times when it does tends to provoke backlash. The times when it lags behind social issues, things tend to be pretty sedate.

      Beyond that, politicians. As you may be aware, most politicians have a couple of things they actually care about, and a whole mess of things they only care about because their constituents care about. So the more data you have to show them “hey, you’ll really be safe if you do this thing”, the more likely they are to do the thing.

      Actual morality or ethics is pretty irrelevant.

  9. And yet the VOX don’t like e-cigs….E-CIG MADNESS!!!

    4 big takeaways from the most comprehensive report on e-cigarettes yet

    E-cigarettes may help adult smokers quit tobacco. But they also entice young people to start smoking.

    1. I have a step-son who hates cigarettes, but he vapes. That article’s generalization does not fit the scenario. Kids will not turn to cigarettes because they take up the fad of vaping! It has not been proven, or even studied scientifically. Old wive’s tales should not be affecting science! But, that seems to be the way people want their doctors to act! Do you really want them to listen to gossip, and ignore the scientific findings?! That is the way they seem to evaluate proper pain management!

  10. Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy, the firm hired by SAM…


  11. I smoked for almost 40 years. I had to quit for work purposes.
    I defintely agree with legalization in more ways than one.
    People should be able to get medical.marijuana for pain and/or chronic diseases. I also believe in peoples right to recreational use.
    The way I see it, if you can go buy alcohol, you should be able to go buy weed at the store.
    In some cases alcohol is alot worse than weed.
    Just sayin.

  12. I just started 7 weeks ago and I’ve gotten 2 check for a total of $2,000…this is the best decision I made in a long time! “Thank you for giving me this extraordinary opportunity to make extra money from home. go to this site for more details


Please to post comments

Comments are closed.