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Prohibitionists’ Poll Backfires, Reveals 83% Support for Cannabis Reform

Published on January 19, 2018 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Closeup shot of a woman writing on a piece of paper

Trial lawyers have a well-known rule of thumb about witnesses: Never ask them a question you don’t already know the answer to.

The ardent prohibitionists over at Project SAM, headed by Kevin Sabet and Patrick Kennedy, may want to consider that advice the next time they commission a poll.

Vox reported earlier today that the anti-cannabis advocacy group hired Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, of Jacksonville, Florida, to ask 1,000 registered voters around the nation about their views on marijuana legalization.

The question put to the voters was as follows:

QUESTION: I want to ask a few questions about marijuana policy in the United States. Currently, possessing and using marijuana is against federal law. Which one of the following best describes your preference on national marijuana policy?

  • Keep the current policy
  • Keep the current policy, but legalize the use of marijuana for physician-supervised medical use
  • Decriminalize marijuana use by removing the possibility of jail time for possession and also allowing for medical marijuana, but keep the sale of marijuana illegal.
  • Legalize the commercial production, use and sale of marijuana for recreational use, as they have done recently in several states.

The public responded with a loud and overwhelming vote in favor of change. In all, 83% of respondents said they want to see some form of federal cannabis legal reform, which is exactly what Project SAM is working against. Here’s how the numbers broke down:

What is your preference on national marijuana policy?

Source: Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy / Learnaboutsam.org

Gender, Age, and Political Differences

Some of the poll’s most interesting findings came in the areas of gender, age, and political affiliation. There’s still a minor gap between men and women when it comes to adult-use legalization, with 53% of men favoring it compared to only 46% of women. The gender gap was virtually nonexistent when it came to keeping prohibition and legalizing medical only.

People under 50 were much more likely to favor legalization of all types compared to people over 50. Only 8% of the younger demographic wanted to keep cannabis federally illegal, while 25% of people over 50 favored the current policy. On full adult-use legalization, 54% of the younger set favored it, compared to only 44% of the 50+ crowd.

Democrats overwhelmingly supported various forms of legal reform, while one-quarter of Republicans wanted to keep cannabis fully illegal. Interestingly, more Independents expressed a preference for full adult-use (57%) than those who identified as Democrats (55%). Only 36% of Republicans opted for full adult-use legalization.

Source: Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy / Learnaboutsam.org

It’s… a Victory! Kind of.

Officials at SAM spun the poll results as best they could.

“New National Poll Shows Support for Marijuana Legalization Dips Below 50% When Voters Are Given Other Policy Choices,” read the headline on their media release. Well… that’s just not so. Project SAM continues to oppose all forms of cannabis legalization, and has always considered medical legalization as “legalization.” So by their own definition, the poll shows 78% support for exactly the kind of legalization they spend their days opposing.

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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