Nearly six in ten Americans now believe that marijuana use ought to be legal and only about one in three favor continuing to criminalize the plant, according to nationwide survey data published today by the Pew Research Center.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents say “The use of marijuana should be made legal,” the highest percentage of Americans ever to answer the question affirmatively in a Pew poll. Only 37 percent of respondents disagree with legalization.
The percentages mark a dramatic shift in public opinion over the past decade. In 2006, only 32 percent of Pew survey respondents favored legalization, while 60 percent opposed the idea. Much of this change is a result of shifting opinions among Millennials (those ages 18 to 35). While only 34 percent of Millennials favored legalizing marijuana in 2006, nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of younger Americans support this policy change today.
Democrats (66 percent), Independents (63 percent), and men (60 percent) were also among those most likely to endorse legalization. Support was lowest among those respondents over 71 years of age (33 percent) and Republicans (41 percent).
The survey possesses a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.
Voters in five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — will be deciding on initiatives to legalize and regulate the adult use and retail sale of cannabis on Election Day.
Members of the Nashville metro council and the Memphis city council have given final approval to municipal legislation providing police the discretion to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders.
Nashville city council members voted 35 to 3 in late September in favor of the new ordinance. It provides police the option of issuing $50 citations for those who possess up to a half-ounce of marijuana. By contrast, under state law, the possession of small amounts of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.
The legislation now awaits action from the city’s mayor, who has pledged to sign the ordinance into law.
Members of the Memphis city council decided this week in favor of a similar measure by a 7 to 6 vote. For the better part of the past year, members of Memphis NORML have spent their time lobbying members of the Memphis city council in support of the policy change. However, the director of the Memphis Police Department remains opposed to the proposal and has indicated that he may instruct his officers to not immediately comply with the new ordinance.
A Republican state lawmaker has threatened to limit funding to the two Tennessee cities if they enact the ordinances into law.
The enactment of statewide medicinal cannabis programs is associated with greater participation in the workforce by adults age 50 and older, according to the findings of a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank.
Researchers at the John Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore and Temple University in Philadelphia analyzed two-decades of data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative panel survey of Americans over 50 and their spouses, to determine the impact of medical marijuana access laws on subjects’ health and workforce participation.
Authors reported, “[H]ealth improvements experienced by both groups (older men and women) permit increased participation in the labor market.” Specifically, investigators determined that the enactment of medical marijuana laws was associated with a “9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week” among those over the age of 50.
They concluded: “Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older adult men and women. … These effects should be considered as policymakers determine how best to regulate access to medical marijuana.”
Previous analyses of the impact of medical cannabis laws on various health and welfare outcomes report that legalization is associated with a reduction in obesity-related medical costs, decreased rates of opioid addiction and mortality, fewer workplace absences, and reduced Medicare costs.
Full text of the study, “The impact of medical marijuana laws on the labor supply and health of older adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study,” appears online here.
ARIZONA: Half of Arizona voters intend to vote ‘yes’ in favor of Proposition 205: The Arizona Legalization and Regulation of Marijuana Act, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll. Forty percent of voters oppose the initiative. The Act allows adults age 21 and older to possess and to privately consume and grow limited amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce of marijuana flower, up to five grams of marijuana concentrate, and/or the harvest from up to six plants) and provides regulations for a retail cannabis marketplace.
CALIFORNIA: Numerous polls show strong support among Californians for Proposition 64: The Adult Use of Marijuana Act. In recent weeks, polling data compiled by the Public Policy Institute of California and the California Field Poll show the measure leading among voters by some 30 percentage points. Proposition 64 permits adults to legally grow (up to six plants) and possess personal use quantities of cannabis (up to one ounce of flower and/or up to eight grams of concentrate) while also licensing commercial cannabis production and retail sales. The measure prohibits localities from taking actions to infringe upon adults’ ability to possess and cultivate cannabis for non-commercial purposes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.”
MAINE: Fifty-three percent of voters support Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act, according to a September UNH Survey Center poll. Only 38 percent of respondents oppose it. The Act authorizes adults to obtain up to two and one-half ounces of cannabis from licensed facilities. Adults can also cultivate up to six plants and possess the harvest from those plants.
MASSACHUSETTS: Voters back Question 4: The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act by a margin of 53 percent to 40 percent, according to polling data released last week by WBZ-TV. The ballot measure permits adults to possess up to 10 ounces of cannabis and to grow up to six plants for non-commercial purposes. The measure also establishes regulations overseeing the commercial production and sale of the plant.
NEVADA: Question 2: The Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative leads among Nevada voters by a margin of 57 percent to 33 percent, according to Suffolk University polling data released last week. The initiative states, “The People of the State of Nevada find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older, and its cultivation and sale should be regulated similar to other businesses.”
For more information about these and other pending ballot initiatives, please see NORML’s Election 2016 page here.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, police made 643,122 arrests for marijuana-related offenses in 2015. Of those arrested, 574,641 (89 percent of all marijuana-related arrests) were charged with marijuana possession only, not cultivation or trafficking.
The annual arrest total represents more than a 25 percent decline since 2007, when police arrested a record 872,721 Americans for violating marijuana laws.
Since 2012, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized the adult use and possession of personal quantities of cannabis, leading to a dramatic decline in marijuana-related arrests in those jurisdictions.
As in previous years, marijuana possession arrests were least likely to occur in the western region of the United States, where possessing the plant has largely been either legalized or decriminalized.
According to 2016 nationwide survey data compiled by the Associated Press, some six out of ten Americans now say that the adult use of marijuana should be legally regulated.