Americans Are Down With California-Style Pot Legalization

Americans want the White House to stay out of weed policy.
Americans want the White House to stay out of weed policy.
Brian Feinzimer

Americans disagree pretty wholeheartedly with the Trump administration's stance on marijuana, according to a new poll.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a notorious marijuana opponent who once said he believed the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out some members smoke weed. Earlier this month he sent a memo to congressional leaders asking that they undo the three-year Rohrabacher–Farr amendment, legislation co-authored by Southern California U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, which essentially strips funding for federal pot enforcement in medical pot states like ours.

A new SurveyUSA poll of 1,500 adults finds that three out of four Americans (76 percent) want the federal government to stay out of marijuana policy. Fewer than two in 10 U.S. residents say Sessions and the Department of Justice should make arrests for alleged marijuana crimes in cases where suspects are otherwise abiding by state laws. SurveyUSA describes itself as an "independent, nonpartisan" opinion research firm. The poll was commissioned by the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority.

The survey seems to demonstrate growing support for the kind of legalization seen in states like California, where voters approved in November recreational pot for those 21 and older.

"These results show that the vast majority of Americans are comfortable allowing California and other states to continue to implement their laws, regardless of whether people personally support legalization," Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said via email.

The poll also found that Americans generally don't care if pro athletes, journalists (cough) or gun owners use weed. Forty-six percent of respondents said pro athletes should be able to use weed without sanctions. Half of respondents said reporters should be able to use cannabis without workplace repercussions. (Thirty-five percent said journalists should be punished in the office for toking.) Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents said gun owners should be able to also be cannabis users.

"It's clear that Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration would face a huge backlash from across the political spectrum if they broke the president's campaign pledge to respect state marijuana policies and started arresting consumers and providers who are following local law," Angell said.

"We must protect the will of American voters," Adam Spiker, executive director of Southern California Coalition, the largest trade group for L.A. marijuana businesses, said via email. "It's the foundation of our democracy. The American people continue to say they want to license and regulate cannabis. It's high time we call these outdated policies what they are: the bread and butter on big prisons' dinner table. When will this administration start being part of the solution, rather than continuing to be the problem?"

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In a statement, Marijuana Majority said the SurveyUSA poll represented "the strongest support yet" for marijuana legalization on a state level. It also arguably demonstrated America's displeasure with Sessions' revival of the war on drugs. Recreational marijuana is scheduled to hit California retailers Jan. 1.

"I think that shows a general respect for local control but also probably indicates a high level of outright curiosity on the part of Americans who just want to see what this all looks like and how it plays out," Angell said. "They don't want that interrupted by the federal government before it has a chance to work."


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