As marijuana legalization continues to sweep the county—and with Congress potentially moving to finally decriminalize pot on the federal level—a new poll shows that a huge majority of Americans support expunging the criminal records of those who have previously been busted.
The findings, which come via the pollster YouGov.com, found that 70 percent of respondents said yes when asked if they support or oppose “expunging marijuana-related convictions for non-violent offenders.” A mere 17 percent said they oppose the idea.
Digging into the crosstabs, the poll found a partisan split—though not as wide as it likely was in previous eras. 81 percent of Democrats said they either strongly or somewhat support the idea, while a majority of Republicans—57 percent—said the same.
The mounting evidence of bipartisan support for relaxed pot policies is reflected not only in surveys like this, but in results at the ballot box and actions on Capitol Hill.
Last month saw voters in four states move to legalize recreational pot use for adults; two of those, South Dakota and Montana, were carried easily by President Donald Trump. Arizona and New Jersey were the other two states where voters approved legalization measures, while South Dakota voters additionally passed a similar measure legalizing medical marijuana.
But there remains some Republican resistance to such efforts.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that seeks to decriminalize marijuana, and also expunge nonviolent pot convictions, legislation that is likely currently doomed, given that the GOP still controls the Senate. Only five House Republicans voted in favor of the bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled chamber by a 228-164 vote.
Republican congressmen criticized the bill, particularly taking aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“With mere days left in the year to get something done for the American people who are suffering, Speaker Pelosi has brought up a drug legalization bill,” said Minnesota GOP Rep. Pete Stauber, as quoted by the New York Times. “As children struggle to receive their education and child care facilities close; as seniors remain isolated from their families, this is their solution.”
Matt Gaetz, a Republican congressman from Florida who supports legalization of marijuana, said that Pelosi would have been better served taking up a separate bill, the STATES Act, that would legalize pot. Gaetz, as quoted by the Times, said that particular legislation “would pass the Senate and be signed into law.”
Still, the prospects of the decriminalization bill that passed the House aren’t completely dead. With two Senate runoffs next month in Georgia, Democrats could still win back control of Congress.
According to NORML, 17 states have “enacted legislation explicitly permitting or facilitating the process of having past marijuana convictions expunged, vacated, otherwise set aside, or sealed from public view.”
The YouGov poll was conducted on December 8, using interviews with more than 7,000 U.S. adults.
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said the poll results are a sign that our “sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that officials move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”