Pubdate: Thu, 03 Apr 2014
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2014 Detroit Free Press
Author: Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)


DENVER -- Nationwide marijuana legalization seems inevitable to
three-fourths of Americans, whether they support it or not, according
to a new poll out Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center survey on the nation's shifting attitudes
about drug policy also showed increased support for moving away from
mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

The telephone survey found that 75% of respondents -- including
majorities of both supporters and opponents of legal marijuana --
think that the sale and use of pot eventually will be legal
nationwide. It was the first time that question had been asked.

Some 39% of respondents said pot should be legal for personal adult
use. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said it should be legal only
for medicinal use. Just 16% said it should not be legal at all.

The responses come as two states have legalized recreational
marijuana, with more than 20 states and Washington, D.C., allowing
some medical use of the drug.

"It's just a matter of time before it's in more states," said Steve
Pratley of Denver, a 51-year-old pipe fitter who voted for
legalization in Colorado in 2012.

Pratley, who did not participate in the Pew survey, agreed with 76% of
respondents who said people who use small amounts of marijuana
shouldn't go to jail.

"If marijuana isn't legalized, it fills up the jails, and that's just
stupid," Pratley said.

Legalization opponents, however, drew a distinction between making pot
legal for all and thinking that pot users belong in jail.

"It's an illegal drug, period. I don't see it spreading," said Laura
Sanchez, a 55-year-old retiree in Denver who voted against
legalization. She agreed that pot smokers don't belong in jail, but
she disagreed with legalization.

"I've seen no proof that it's good for anybody," said Sanchez, who
also did not participate in the survey.

The poll suggested that despite shifting attitudes on legalization,
the public remains concerned about drug abuse, with 32% of those
surveyed calling it a crisis and 55% of respondents viewing it as a
serious national problem.

And a narrow majority, 54%, said marijuana legalization would lead to
more underage people trying it.

As for mandatory minimum sentences, public attitudes have been
shifting for years.

In 2001, the survey was about evenly divided on whether it was a good
thing or bad thing for states to move away from mandatory minimum
sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. In 2014, poll respondents
favored the move by a nearly 2-1 margin, or 63% to 32%. The other 5%
either didn't respond or said they didn't know.

Public officials are well aware of the public's shifting attitudes on
drug penalties.

Just last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified in
support of proposed sentence reductions for some nonviolent drug
traffickers in an effort to reserve the "the harshest penalties for
the most serious drug offenders."

"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,"
Holder said last month at the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Drug legalization activists said the Pew results come as no

"We see a growing bipartisan recognition that mandatory minimums went
too far and did more harm than good," said Ethan Nadelmann, head of
the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, which opposes criminal
penalties for nonviolent drug users.

Marijuana legalization opponents saw signs of hope in the survey,

Kevin Sabet, cofounder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes
pot legalization, pointed to the fact that 63% said it would bother
them if people used marijuana openly in their neighborhood.

"Saying that we don't want people to serve prison time for marijuana
is very different from saying I want a pot shop in my neighborhood
selling cookies and candies and putting coupons in the paper," Sabet

The poll of 1,821 adults was conducted Feb. 14-23. The survey had a
margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D