Pubdate: Thu, 03 Apr 2014
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press


DENVER - Threefourths of Americans say it's inevitable that marijuana 
will be legal for recreational use across the nation, whether they 
support such policies or not, according to a public opinion poll 
released Wednesday that highlights shifting attitudes following an 
era of drug war and "tough on crime" legislation.

The Pew Research Center survey also shows increased support for 
ending mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent drug 
offenders and doing away with jail time for small amounts of marijuana.

The opinions come as public debate on these topics has led lawmakers 
around the nation to consider policy changes.

Since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana 
in 1996, at least 19 others, and the District of Columbia, have 
followed suit, including two that have approved recreational use.

Meanwhile, critics and political leaders, both liberal and 
conservative, have clamored for an end to harsh drug sentences, 
saying mandatory minimums have contributed to prison overcrowding, 
civil rights violations and strained budgets. U.S. Attorney General 
Eric Holder has been pushing Congress to overhaul drug sentencing policies.

The telephone survey found that 75 percent of respondents - including 
majorities of both supporters and opponents of legal marijuana - 
think the sale and use of pot eventually will be legal nationwide.

The survey indicates that four years ago, 52 percent of respondents 
said they thought the use of marijuana should not be legal, while 41 
percent said it should. The new poll shows a reversal with 54 percent 
in favor of legalization and 42 percent opposed.

The survey was about evenly divided in 2001 on whether states should 
move away from mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug 
offenders. Today, poll respondents favored moving away from such 
policies by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio.

Respondents said by a ratio greater than 3-to-1 that people who use 
small amounts of pot shouldn't go to jail.

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: Jay Bergstrom