Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, June 13, 2019

New Gallup poll (imperfectly) explores reasons Americans support or oppose marijuana reform

Gallup has this new story reporting on the results of its recent intriguing poll about marijuana reform under the headline "In U.S., Medical Aid Top Reason Why Legal Marijuana Favored."  Here are excerpts:

As public support for legalizing marijuana has surged, a new Gallup poll finds 86% of U.S. supporters of legal marijuana saying its medicinal benefits are a very important reason they support legalization.  Majorities also say freeing up police resources to focus on other crimes, respecting people's personal freedom, and generating tax revenue for state and local governments are key reasons for their support.

Marijuana legalization supporters are less likely to say that increasing the drug's safety through government regulation or believing that marijuana is not harmful are very important reasons they hold the opinion they do.

The results are based on a May 15-30 Gallup poll that sought to explore some of the reasons behind Americans' opinions for, or against, making marijuana legal. Gallup has documented a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans favoring legal marijuana in the past decade, from 44% in 2009 to 64% in the current survey. Gallup has measured support as high as 66% in an October 2018 update. In 1969, the first time Gallup polled on the issue, just 12% were in favor of legalizing marijuana.

For the most part, different subgroups of marijuana legalization advocates are similar in their stated reasons for supporting legal marijuana.  One modest difference concerns the importance of tax revenue for state and local governments, something that 63% of male supporters versus 50% of female supporters regard as very important.

The roughly one-third of Americans who oppose legalization were asked to say how important each of six factors is to their position on the issue.  Foremost among these is the possibility of increased car accidents involving drivers who use marijuana -- 79% say this is a very important reason they oppose legalizing the drug.

Additionally, at least six in 10 opponents rate three other factors as very important reasons behind their objections: the possibility that marijuana users would try stronger and more addictive drugs; the potential for marijuana usage to increase; and that legalizing marijuana would not benefit society much.  A slim majority of opponents cite its potential harm to users....

The most compelling reason for legalization, according to those who hold that position, is the help it gives to those who use it for medicinal purposes. Also, supporters tend to point to the possible benefits legal pot would have on law enforcement, state and local governments, and personal freedom.  A "lack of harm" for users does not appear to a be a major reason why people want marijuana legalized.

Opponents, though smaller in number, point more to the societal risks, including those related to car accidents and marijuana users trying more potent drugs that likely would have a greater societal cost for those who become addicted.

Though these poll results are interesting (and not all that surprising), it is somewhat disappointing that the questions exploring support for and opposition to marijuana reform were not more refined.  In particular, given concerns about the "war on drug" and its racial skew, I would have liked to seen more "support" questions focused on various criminal justice reform concerns.  Similarly, the opposition questions did not explore widespread concerns about increasing youth access to and use of marijuana.  Some of the existing questions get near to these topics, but I suspect more or more refined questions would have impacted the outcomes.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2019/06/new-gallup-poll-imperfectly-explores-reasons-americans-support-or-oppose-marijuana-reform.html

Polling data and results, Who decides | Permalink

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