As the midterm elections approach, a new poll finds that a majority of Democrats believe that legalizing marijuana should be a top or important priority for Congress, and that the issue has significant support from voters in general.
The survey from Morning Consult and Politico that was released on Wednesday asked registered voters about 13 different issues and the extent to which they should be congressional priorities. Four out of ten voters overall said ending prohibition should be prioritized.
While cannabis reform was far from the top issue that respondents in general said they feel lawmakers should be pursuing—with more Americans saying that issues like reducing the federal deficit, health care and economic recovery from the pandemic are top concerns—it remains notable that almost half of the country views marijuana legalization as a priority and that a majority of voters in the party that controls both chambers of Congress and the White House do so.
Overall, 19 percent of voters said that cannabis should be a “top priority” and an additional 22 percent said it should be an “important, but lower priority.” Only 20 percent said Congress shouldn’t move to end prohibition.
For an issue that has long gone ignored by congressional leaders until more and more states elected to legalize marijuana, the fact that 41 percent of American voters now regard it as a priority is revealing.
And for Democrats heading into a precarious election season where the threat of losing their majority in at least one chamber looms large, lawmakers may want to take note of the fact that 52 percent of people who identify as or lean Democrat say cannabis legalization should be a top or important congressional priority.
That’s compared to 29 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning voters who said they felt the same. The poll did not ask about other reform options such as simple decriminalization, which may have garnered more bipartisan support from voters, especially given that there’s been some level of conflation with the terminology of the policy changes.
The demographic that feels most strongly that marijuana legalization should be a priority for Congress is black voters, a group that has historically bore the brunt of cannabis criminalization. A total of 63 percent of black voters say Congress needs to act on reform, including 36 percent who said it should be a “top priority.”
A majority of young people aged 18-34 also said that marijuana reform should be a priority for lawmakers, at 53 percent. Other demographics that showed a majority saying the issue should be a priority include millennials (56 percent), people who approve of the president’s job performance (52 percent) and those with student debt (54 percent).
The survey involved interviews with 2,005 registered voters from April 8-11, with a margin of error of +/- two percentage points.
Congressional prioritization notwithstanding, numerous national polls have found that the issue of legalization on its own is popular with the public on an increasingly bipartisan level.
A survey from Rasmussen Reports that was released last November found that 62 percent of Americans, including most Republicans, are in favor of ending prohibition, for example.
Gallup also released a poll around that time, finding that 68 percent of U.S. adults said they back legalizing cannabis.
In Congress, a Democratic-led House bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote equity in the industry passed the full chamber for the second time in history this month. And Senate leadership is separately preparing to introduce their own legalization bill later this month.
The sponsor of a GOP-led bill to end federal prohibition and tax cannabis says her proposal will also receive a hearing this session.
While a strong fraction of voters do believe that legalization should be a priority, most Americans are pessimistic about the prospects of President Joe Biden making good on his campaign pledge to simply decriminalize cannabis in his second year in office, another poll released in January found.
Meanwhile, a strong majority of Americans support the modest reform of freeing up banks to work with marijuana businesses without facing federal penalties, according to a poll released by the American Bankers Association (ABA) last month.
Across the Atlantic, a new, landmark survey out of Europe shows similar majority support for regulating cannabis in several major countries in the region.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.