New National Polling Data on Marijuana

The good news is that almost half of America now supports the Tenth Amendment with respect to federal decriminalization of marijuana combined with letting states regulate and tax the controversial herb. NORML reports:

Nearly one out of two Americans support amending federal law “to let states legally regulate and tax marijuana the way they do liquor and gambling,” according to a national poll of 1,004 likely voters by Zogby International and commissioned by the NORML Foundation.

Forty-six percent of respondents — including a majority of those polled on the east (53 percent) and west (55 percent) coasts — say they support allowing states to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

As a pollster who follows marijuana reform issues, I find the demographics interesting:

Respondents’ support for marijuana law reform was strongly influenced by age and political affiliation. Nearly two-thirds of 18-29 year-olds (65 percent) and half of 50-64 year-olds think federal law should be amended to allow states the option to regulate marijuana, while majorities of 30-49 year-olds (58 percent) and seniors 65 and older (52 percent) oppose such a change.

Among those respondents who identified themselves as Democrats, 59 percent back taxing and regulating marijuana compared to only 33 percent of Republicans.

I understand the positive responses from the 18-29 year-olds, but was pleasantly surprised by the 50-64 year-old respondents. Anecdotally, it’s members of this latter group that have most often been the opposition on marijuana-related initiatives and legislation I’ve worked. I was also a bit surprised that a majority of people in my age group (30-49) were in opposition. As many in this class are parents, it’s a bit understandable, though. It’s just a shame they don’t realize that their children are the ones being hurt the most by our current radical and extreme drug policy.

Other data provide (emphasis added):

Forty-four percent of Independents and 85 percent of Libertarians say they supported the law change.

I’m concerned about the 15% of libertarians who didn’t support it. These are likely to be the types who won’t support incremental change of any sort. A related example of libertarian all-or-nothingism exists on a medical marijuana online poll I ran in Alabama. At present, 38% oppose a state medical marijuana bill when I include this option:

No, the government should have no control over what substance someone takes

I’m pretty embarrassed about the 15%/38% of sampled libertarians who refuse to accept incremental reform measures.

23 Comments
  1. Well, it does at least demonstrate that reformers are in the clear majority…

  2. Perhaps they don’t support it because it advocates “regulating and taxing” marijuana.

  3. Don’t worry about it…there aren’t enough Libertarians to matter. The progress made in fighting the drug war has had absolutely nothing to do with the work of the LP.

  4. John,

    I agree with you in general, but would add that there are quite a few libertarians at the forefront of fighting the drug war. The character limitation for comments here does not allow for me to list them all — but you know the names as well as I do.

  5. DAP – exactly. However, regulating and taxing is certainly an incremental improvement over incarcerating, siezing unrelated private property, throwing the kids in foster homes, etc.

  6. Stephen,

    Individuals who happen also to be Libertarians…let’s list at least the two of us before character limitations expire :) And you are correct, many, many more besides; and there are alot more non-Libertarians as well. My comment is about the LP as a whole…and the LP for far too long has stolen credit for the individual achievements of its’ individual members.

    The numbers you cite are the same kind of people you’ll find sitting on LP committees, and doing nothing…that’s why I said don’t worry about ’em. They don’t matter.

  7. That’s why I hate committees. How they get elected to those committees counfounds me, at times.

  8. I look at the 85% thing and have a more optimistic view. Maybe someone who is now reading this story circulate in the newspapers will see that and go: “hey, maybe this means I’m a libertarian?”

    It’s also possible that the 15% represents the paranoid minority who have conspiracy theories that the government is personally bugging them and looking for them to slip in public. Meh.

  9. Read a report today that said California alone has more people in prison than three to four european countries combined.
    Somebody is making big bucks off of prohibition.
    The tide is turning and the truth will set these capitives free.
    God has stated in his word that marijuana is good and he has given it to you.

    My question to all is why let evil man dole out rights to you when our constitution has guarranteed us certain God-given rights that no man has the right to take away.

    My fellow countrymen why do you keep voting for the two socialist dynasty parties to rule over you. Why not elect someone who wil serve you and protect your rights.

  10. I think that it is clear that marijuana will inevitably be decriminalized in America at some point in time. Anyone have an estimate of when? I assume it will be decriminalized within 15 years.

  11. There are a lot of explanations for the 15% disapproval. I wouldn’t worry about it.

    For god’s sake, I hear Bill O’Reilly is trying to pass himself off as libertarian and throwing the “L” word around. It’s supposed to be hip and cool to throw it around as long as you aren’t the genuine article I guess. If you are genuine then you need to be sanctioned and shut up and be a Republican sycophant.

    Speaking of which, why don’t we work on making/marketing it as hip and cool? I went to a non-partisan libertarian conference and most of what I saw were old white dudes.

  12. Unfortunately, even with polls showing numbers like this, it will probably still be shot down by the feds.
    Numerous bills have been shot down to legalize or decriminalize medical marijuana, I just don’t see any changes happening any time in the near future. But we can always hope.
    Think of how much money the government would save by taxing marijuana sales and regulating it, instead of policing it and spending countless millions on police forces and court fees.

  13. Have you considered that the 50-60 year olds were the people enjoying the plant back in the day and that the youngest group are still in a rebel stage? I am sorry that my age group is so closed minded on this, but I think you could poll and find that the same group is generally less involved in political matters. There must be something in corporate water coolers.

  14. When I was a senior in high school (1972), California had a ballot proposition to decriminalize marijuana. Our senior class held a mock election for seniors. It was interesting that the senior class (rebels though they thought they were) voted right down the line, candidates and propositions (there were several), with voters in the state.

    With two exceptions: The H.S. seniors voted to decriminalize marijuana and not to reinstate capital punishment.

    Watergate was in full flower, though it did not get to Nixon until the following year.

    I just turned 50. I’ve never smoked anything in my life, nor had so much as an antibiotic since I was on my parents’ insurance. But I can see why those of my class and above, many of whom were more concerned with Viet Nam, would not be scared of deregulating weed.

  15. re I’m pretty embarrassed about the 15%/38% of sampled libertarians who refuse to accept incremental reform measures.

    “Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practise”.

    now who said that? Regards.

  16. Stephen Gordon wrote: “That’s why I hate committees. How they get elected to those committees counfounds me, at times.”

    Often no one runs against the people who sit on the committees, often because no one can stand the people they’d have to serve with or butt heads against.

    The progress made in the drug reform area has come about since some very successful businessmen applied business sense to existing and new drug policy reform organizations. Groups like MPP don’t run by committee, are directly accountable to their supporters…hey, what more needs to be said, except, when will the LP adopt such a model?

  17. There is a difference between gradualism in that context and incrementalism in this context.

  18. Sandra,

    I don’t do weed, either. I prefer other drugs, like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.

  19. John,

    The LP (with zero dues) just accepted the accountability model. Let’s see if it works for them, now.

  20. I’m concerned about the 15% of libertarians who didn’t support it. These are likely to be the types who won’t support incremental change of any sort. A related example of libertarian all-or-nothingism exists on a medical marijuana online poll I ran in Alabama. At present, 38% oppose a state medical marijuana bill when I include this option:

    No, the government should have no control over what substance someone takes

    I’m pretty embarrassed about the 15%/38% of sampled libertarians who refuse to accept incremental reform measures.

    Paul) Me too, although your web poll was unscientific.

    Nevertheless let’s assume the numbers are roughly accurate.

    http://www.lpalabama.org/node/246?PHPSESSID=019afec37503233ff24926877d2996bd#comment-16

    Dick Coffee calls those of us who support medical marijuana and Initiative and Referendum “impure”…but consider the source. He also supports Iraq War, “WW 4” and “temporary” abridgement of freedom in the name of the terror war…

  21. That’s why I hate committees. How they get elected to those committees counfounds me, at times.

    Because they put themselves forward as candidates, work hard to win the seats, go to the meetings which elect the committees, drive away people who don’t like the bureaucratic nature of the LP in real life (instinctual libertarians) who don’t like doing any of that stuff…oh yeah, and schedule the votes in a way where they and those like them will show up and vote while everyone else is either sleeping it off or packed up and went home.

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