Americans Have Gone Really Soft on Drugs

69 percent say marijuana is better for you than alcohol.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
April 2, 2014, 7:01 a.m.

Marijuana is hav­ing a mo­ment. The Dis­trict of Columbia just ap­proved a meas­ure to de­crim­in­al­ize pos­ses­sion of the drug. Two states al­low it out­right. Many more ap­prove of it for med­ic­al use. In this fisc­al year, Col­or­ado has reaped nearly $13 mil­lion in marijuana-re­lated taxes and fees. And, as a new re­port from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter finds, 69 per­cent of re­spond­ents say it’s bet­ter for your health than al­co­hol.

Like­wise, the push to re­form man­dat­ory min­im­um sen­tences for drug crimes has also gained mo­mentum. At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er has made it one of his top pri­or­it­ies. And when the U.S. sen­ten­cing com­mis­sion votes on new guidelines in April, there’s a good chance it will call for re­forms.

These two na­tion­al trends — to­ward marijuana ac­cept­ance, away from drug-re­lated in­car­cer­a­tions — are shown with ab­so­lute clar­ity in the just-pub­lished re­port from Pew. “The pub­lic ap­pears ready for a truce in the long-run­ning war on drugs,” the re­port says.

Sixty-sev­en per­cent of Amer­ic­ans now say the gov­ern­ment should fo­cus more on treat­ment than in­car­cer­a­tion for hard-drug crimes. But more than those top num­bers, Pew finds a huge shift, over time, in Amer­ica’s views to­ward drugs.

We’ve gone soft on them. And both Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats are trend­ing in the same dir­ec­tion.

“By nearly two-to-one (63% to 32%), more say it is a good thing than a bad thing that some states have moved away from man­dat­ory sen­tences for non-vi­ol­ent drug of­fend­ers,” the re­port reads. “In 2001, Amer­ic­ans were evenly di­vided over the move by some states to aban­don man­dat­ory drug terms.”

Here are some of the re­port’s more strik­ing find­ings.

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COR­REC­TION: This art­icle ori­gin­ally mis­stated the per­cent of people who would be bothered by pub­lic marijuana smoking. Sixty three per­cent of re­spond­ents on the poll said they would be bothered by pub­lic pot smoking. Thirty four per­cent said they wouldn’t be bothered.

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