New Poll Finds More than Four Out of Five DC Voters Support Decriminalizing Drug Possession & Investing in Services

Press Release October 26, 2021
Media Contact

Matt Sutton 202-556-3291
[email protected]

Washington, D.C. – Today, #DecrimPovertyDC—a coalition of civil rights, public health, criminal justice reform, drug policy and faith groups, led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and HIPS—released new polling data showing that more than four out of five (83%) District of Columbia voters, including at least three in four in every ward and a majority of voters across all major demographic groups, support removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs and investing in health services. The release of the poll comes on the heels of the coalition launching a legislative campaign last week calling on the D.C. Council and Mayor to introduce and pass legislation that decriminalizes personal possession of all drugs and increases access to needed harm reduction and other health services in the District.  

Additionally, the survey found that seven in ten (72%) voters would be more likely to vote for a council candidate who supported the decriminalization policy, with just seven percent saying they would be less likely. And while each component of the proposal had widespread support, increasing funding for services and 24/7 harm reduction centers was almost universally favored by all voters, with 95 percent and 93 percent support respectively. 

“While the various percentages vary, these results clearly show that D.C. voters overwhelmingly want their council members and mayor to pass legislation that decriminalizes possession of drugs and provides additional funding for needed health services, so much so, that they would be willing to vote them out of office if they fail to do so,” said Queen Adesuyi, Policy Manager for the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is a matter of life and death. It’s about human dignity and supporting our most vulnerable community members. We have provided the framework in the form of a proposal delivered to the council that does just this. Now, it’s time for our elected representatives to act. And with countless lives on the line, we cannot wait.” 

The campaign’s legislative proposal—which the Coalition is urging the D.C. Council to introduce before the end of 2021—decriminalizes the possession of all drugs, establishes a commission to set the thresholds for what constitutes personal possession, provides for expungement and resentencing of past drug possession arrests and convictions, and creates a 24-hour harm reduction center where people who use drugs can access the support services they need and safely consume drugs under the supervision of a trained professional that can react in the case of an overdose or other health emergency. 

“Decriminalizing drugs is not an issue of morality. This is about people’s safety. This data confirms that voters nearly universally support providing additional funding for services and harm-reduction centers,” said Jeremiah-Anthony Righteous-Rogers, Community Organizer for HIPS. “We can see that there is demonstrated passion in the District for investing in systems of support for drug users rather than systems of punishment.” 

“This survey data shows that public opinion has come a long way in recent years and D.C. residents now strongly support the decriminalization of poverty and fully embrace a health care approach as an alternative to criminal penalties for possession of drugs,” said David Grosso, Attorney at Arent Fox LLC and Former Member of the D.C. Council.  “A harm reduction approach to support people who use drugs is proven to be more effective than the ‘lock em up’ approach to criminal justice. The Mayor and Council should move this legislation immediately to save the lives of and to support our residents.” 

The survey was conducted by FM3 Research between June 30 – July 8, 2021 among 402 likely 2022 voters in Washington, D.C., with a margin of error of +/-4.9% at the 95% confidence level. 

The #DecrimPovertyDC campaign launched last Thursday, October 21, on the front steps of the D.C. Council. High resolution images and b-roll of the event can be found here

For more information on the campaign visit Follow the campaign’s Twitter for updates @DecrimPovertyDC.  

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

Sign up for updates from DPA.