CBS News Poll Finds 59% of Americans Want States – Not Feds – to Determine Marijuana Policy

Press Release December 3, 2012
Media Contact

Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann 646-335-2240</p>

Last month, voters Washington State and Colorado decisively adopted ballot initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana under state law for recreational use for people age 21 and older.  These changes in state law reflect the increasing support among the American public for legalizing marijuana.  The Washington and Colorado measures won with approximately 55 percent of the vote in each state.

All marijuana – medical or not – remains illegal under federal law.  How the federal government will react to the public’s increasing desire for change and the passage of these two measures is unknown.  Based on a new CBS News poll, a large majority of Americans thinks the issue of marijuana should be left to the states, even among those people who think marijuana should remain illegal.

Fifty-nine percent think whether or not to legalize marijuana should be left up to each individual state government to decide – including 65 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of those who oppose legalizing marijuana in general.

“The big question on everyone’s mind is – how will the federal government respond to the decisive victories in Colorado and Washington?” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “What this new poll shows is that Americans believe that states should be able to move forward with the responsible regulation of marijuana. The Obama administration would be wise to allow them to do so.”

Support for legalizing marijuana also increased from 45 percent in September to 47 percent today. Another 47 percent think it should remain prohibited.

This confirms what Gallup and other polls have shown over the past year. Whereas the public was almost 2:1 against marijuana legalization just eight years ago, the country is now evenly split, with demographic trends suggesting growing support in years to come.

The poll also found a substantial increase in support for medical marijuana. Eighty-three percent of Americans favor allowing doctors to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses – up from 77 percent a year ago and 62 percent in 1997. A majority of Americans of all ages favor allowing medical marijuana – as well as most Republicans, Democrats and independents. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Link to the survey:

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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