A new poll shows that support for the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. is at an all-time high. The survey found that 68% of voters now support legalizing cannabis. Research firm GBA Strategies conducted the online poll of 1,000 registered voters between April 25 and May 1. The Center for American Progress (CAP) commissioned the study and then released the results on Wednesday.
Ed Chung is the vice president of Criminal Justice Reform at CAP. He said that the poll’s results are a signal to federal lawmakers, noting that state and local jurisdictions have already led the way.
“This finding of widespread, bipartisan national support for marijuana legalization is important as Congress begins to take initial steps in this arena,” said Chung. “There is clear overwhelming public support for marijuana legalization, and cities and states across the country are taking action. It is time for a national effort to catch up with legislation to liberalize outdated marijuana policies.”
The poll also found support for cannabis legalization by a majority of all major demographic groups. By political affiliation, 77 percent of Democrats favor legalization, while 57 percent of Republicans do. Support by independent voters was lowest at 62 percent. Among African-Americans, 72 percent believe that pot should be legalized. Sixty-nine percent of whites and 64 percent of Latinos agree. By gender, 69 percent of women and 66 percent of men support the legalization of cannabis.
Chung told reporters that he believes that politicians will begin to give cannabis policy more attention.
“[Legalization is] certainly going to be, at least, a bipartisan issue,” Chung said. “I think you’ll see a lot of progressive [elected officials] who are going to be out front about this. Now, I think that there’s a lot of work still to be done about how this plays out in different states and nationally as well, but the first step is getting the concept of this socialized among elected leaders—and oftentimes, unfortunately, elected leaders are not leading on this issues, but following.”
Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws echoed that sentiment.
“In an era of increasing partisanship, public support for ending cannabis criminalization is an issue that crosses party lines. More and more, elected officials—and those who wish to be elected—must acknowledge that advocating in favor of marijuana policy reform is a political opportunity, not a political liability,” Armentano said.
Voters Also Support ‘Clean Slate’ Laws
The CAP survey also showed strong support, at 70 percent, for clean slate laws that automatically seal non-violent criminal records. Support for sealing records of marijuana possession convictions was even higher at 73 percent.
Rebecca Vallas is CAP vice president for the Poverty to Prosperity Program. She said that the legalization of cannabis should also apply retroactively to past offenders.
“Legalizing marijuana is an important first step, but it must go hand in hand with enabling people with marijuana records to receive a clean slate so they can move on with their lives,” said Vallas. “As momentum continues to grow for marijuana legalization, Congress must ensure that people with marijuana convictions do not face a life sentence to poverty.”