You can’t visit a news website or open up your social media accounts without seeing talk of marijuana. It’s everywhere. Laws are changing and so are opinions about the long-vilified plant. A new study from The Pew Research Center indicates that most Americans see where the conversations are headed, whether they approve or not.
According to the telephone survey, about 75 percent of Americans think marijuana legalization is “inevitable”, whether or not they approve of it. This poll was the first to ask that specific question.
Polls on public perception of marijuana have varied wildly over the past few years. Just a few months ago, one from Gallup found that more than half of Americans support legalization. The Pew study didn’t quite have the same results.
About 39 percent of respondents said pot should be legalized for adult recreational use. Not surprisingly, more thought legalizing it for medicinal use was appropriate—at 44 percent. Only 16 percent said it should not be legal at all.
Whether or not you smoke, eat, or vape marijuana, you probably side with most Americans in believing that keeping marijuana possession a crime is a waste of time and resources. For many who don’t necessarily support the consumption of marijuana, decriminalization is a rational answer—where marijuana possession carries a fine rather than a criminal charge.
The Pew study found that Americans are still concerned about drug abuse—proof the War on Drugs still has support despite all of its flaws. Some 32 percent view drugs as a “crisis” in the U.S. and 55 percent view it as a “serious national problem.”
Despite this, many Americans are warming to more sensible sentencing practices. Mandatory minimum sentences are often draconian penalties for non-violent crimes, sentencing laws that take away a judge’s right to determine the most appropriate sentence. In the Pew poll, respondents favored doing away with such laws by a 63 percent to 32 percent margin.
While marijuana is the topic of the day, drug laws in general need revisiting and the marijuana wave is just the thing to usher in these types of important discussions.
“Certain types of cases result in too many Americans going to prison for too long, and at times for no truly good public safety reason,” Attorney General Eric Holder said last month at the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
Some elected officials are too shifting stances, from being blindly “tough on crime” to being smart on drug crimes. But we still have a long way to go as the most incarcerated nation in the world.