A.P. Poll Finds Falling Resistance to Marijuana Legalization

A new A.P. poll

that the number of Americans who oppose marijuana
legalization has fallen dramatically in the last few years. In a
survey completed last week, 29 percent of respondents said they
opposed “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana
for personal use,” compared to 55 percent in 2010. A.P. notes that
the 2010 survey was conducted by phone, while the new one was
conducted online, a method that tends to boost neutral responses.
The share of respondents who said they “neither favor nor oppose”
legalizing marijuana tripled between 2010 and 2013, while the
percentage favoring legalization rose only slightly. Still, the

A.P. numbers
are consistent with other surveys in finding
increased receptiveness to repealing marijuana prohibition.

The most dramatic of those results was Gallup’s
in October that 58 percent of Americans think “the use
of marijuana should be made legal.” That was the highest level of
support for legalization ever found by a Gallup poll. But like the
question used by A.P., Gallup’s wording suggests a relatively
narrow reform that does not necessarily include legalizing
commercial production and distribution, as Colorado and Washington
have done. Whether that policy receives majority support depends on
how the question is worded. In the most recent
Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey
, for example, 49 percent of
respondents said yes to “legalizing marijuana,” while 47 percent
said no. But in a
Reason-Rupe poll
conducted in January, 53 percent of
respondents said “the government should treat marijuana
the same as alcohol.” 

Similarly, 56 percent of respondents in a 2010
A.P.-CNBC poll said
regulations for marijuana should be either the same as or less
strict than regulations for alcohol. A 2011 YouGov/Economist poll found
a similar level of support (58 percent) for treating marijuana like
alcohol. Meanwhile, just 36 percent of the respondents in this
month’s A.P. survey were prepared to voice support merely for
“legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for
personal use.”

What’s going on here? Looking at the differences between the
A.P. and Gallup results, it may be that
“possession” (which is, after all, currently a crime)
triggers more negative associations than “use” (which is not
in itself defined as a crime, although it obviously entails
possession). And why does “legalizing marijuana,” which could mean
anything from not arresting users to completely repealing
prohibition, get less support than treating marijuana like alcohol,
which necessarily means legalizing production and sale as well as
possession? Likening marijuana to alcohol evokes a familiar legal
model and suggests a moral equivalency that is hard to deny. That
was the approach that reformers took in Colorado and Washington,
and legalization got about 55 percent of the vote in both

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/20/ap-poll-finds-falling-resistance-to-mari

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