60 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization — times are changing

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According to a poll released last week by Gallup, there appears to be no buyer’s remorse on the part of the American people when it comes to their support for the legalization of marijuana. In fact, as more states move to end cannabis criminalization, Americans’ support for legalizing and regulating marijuana has only grown stronger.  

Sixty-six percent of Americans now say that they endorse legalization, a total that is consistent with other recent polls and that is nearly 30 percent higher than 2012 totals — when Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize adult marijuana use.

A separate nationwide poll also released last week by PPRI (the Public Religion Research Institute) similarly reported that two in three Americans support legalizing and regulating the plant.

The new Gallup poll finds that support for legalization is held by majorities of Democrats (76 percent), Republicans (51 percent), and Independents (68 percent). Further, every age demographic below 65, representing the overwhelming majority of the taxpaying public, would rather their dollars be spent to regulate cannabis, not incarcerate its consumers. 

Right now, many states are light-years ahead of Congress when it comes to regulating marijuana. To date, eleven states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the adult-use and possession of cannabis.

Furthermore, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted regulatory access laws that allow qualified patients to obtain and use cannabis therapeutically and many of these states continue to pass significant expansions to their programs. An additional thirteen states have passed laws specific to the possession of cannabidiol (CBD) extracts for therapeutic purposes. CBD is an organic compound in the cannabis plant.

In total, 46 states have enacted statutory laws specific to the possession and use of either whole-plant cannabis or extracted cannabinoids that are in direct violation of the federal law, which classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 prohibited substance. This contradiction undermines the very premise of the American belief in the rule of law. 

But, even within the halls of Congress, there are signs that times are changing. 

Just last month, The SAFE Banking Act was taken up by the full House and passed by a bipartisan vote of 321-103, becoming the first stand-alone cannabis legislation to legitimize the retail sale of marijuana in the U.S.

At the time of the bill’s passage, multiple commitments were made to take up a Judiciary Committee bill.

Conveniently waiting in the wings is Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s (D-N.Y.) Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, comprehensive legislation to end federal marijuana criminalization.

The act removes the marijuana plant from the federal Controlled Substances Act, requires the federal courts to expunge prior marijuana-related convictions, and provides grants to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war to facilitate record expungements, assist local governments in setting up accessible licensing structures that promote consumer safety, and other needed changes.

Clearly, the age of marijuana prohibition is nearing its end. The question is which political leaders will cast their votes on the right side of history and how long will it take until we find out. 

Justin Strekal is the political director for NORML, where he serves as an advocate to end the federal prohibition of marijuana and to reform our nation's laws to no longer discriminate against its consumers.

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