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Pro-Trump Group’s Poll Shows Opposition To Trump Marijuana Policies

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The Trump administration’s marijuana enforcement policies are deeply unpopular with U.S. voters, including with the president’s base. That’s according to a survey recently conducted by a conservative advocacy group and pollsters closely tied to President Trump and his political campaign apparatus.

“When it comes to legalizing marijuana, over 8-in-10 voters (82%) believe that the drug should be legal for either medical or recreational purposes (43%), or legal solely for medical purposes (39%),” reads a polling memo that was prepared in January by American First Policies, a nonprofit group that hired the president’s pollsters to run surveys. “Only 13% of the electorate believe that marijuana should be classified as illegal.”

Among key constituencies for the president:

• Less than 1-in-5 Trump voters believe that marijuana should be illegal (18%)

• Only about 1-in-10 voters in competitive 2018 states believe the drug should be illegal (11%)

The survey of 1,200 U.S. voters, the existence of which was first reported by CNBC, was conducted roughly two weeks after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference.

The America First Policies survey found that move to be unpopular as well, as shown by the group’s polling memo obtained by Marijuana Moment.

“By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, voters believe states should be allowed to individually determine whether or not to legalize marijuana (60%), over the federal government determining the legality (31%),” it reads.

That includes a 10-point margin of support for local control in cannabis laws by Republican voters (50% to 40%) and a 17-point spread among Trump supporters (54% to 37%).

The poll did show one hopeful sign for Sessions’s action, at least among the president’s base, but only when respondents were read a vague question that did not make clear the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws.

When asked if they “support or oppose the Department of Justice instructing all U.S. Attorneys to enforce federal marijuana laws, including the prohibiting the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana,” Republicans were on board to the tune of 56% to 32%, and Trump supporters weighed in at 51% to 38%.

But U.S. voters overall oppose the move, with 53% in against and just 36% in support.

And then, when asked next to specifically choose if “each state should be allowed to individually determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes within the boundaries of their state regardless of federal law” or if “the federal government should determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes for the entire country and should enforce the law in every state regardless of local laws,” every demographic in the survey supported local policies in opposition to Sessions’s move:

States’ Choice

Fed. Gov’t.

DIFF

Republican (31%)

50%

40%

+10

Democrat (35%)

65%

27%

+38

Independent (26%)

65%

28%

+37

Republican Men (17%)

51%

44%

+7

Republican Women (14%)

50%

35%

+15

Democrat Men (13%)

69%

22%

+47

Democrat Women (22%)

62%

30%

+32

Independent Men (13%)

67%

26%

+41

Independent Women (13%)

62%

29%

+33

Trump Voter (39%)

54%

38%

+16

Trump Supporter (55%)

54%

37%

+17

2018 Competitive State (25%)

55%

30%

+25

CNBC discovered the marijuana polling memo as well as survey data on a number of other issues buried on the America First Policies website. Most of the documents were removed after the news organization inquired about them.

By hiring the pollsters who have worked for the president’s campaign, the nonprofit engaged in a practice that “breaks with decades of tradition and raises concerns about potential coordination between the dark money group, the White House and the RNC,” CNBC reported, referring to the Republican National Committee.

CNBC elaborated the concern this way:

“America First Policies is not the first nonprofit group created to advance a president’s priorities, nor is it the first to conduct intensive polling. Two Obama-linked groups, Priorities USA and Organizing for Action did the same thing. Priorities USA did not disclose its donors, but OFA did voluntarily, releasing quarterly donor lists.

“But by hiring the Trump campaign’s pollsters to conduct such a large and secretive Trump-focused data operation, and paying for it with dark money, America First Policies is going well beyond what previous outside nonprofit groups have done.”

The marijuana polling document’s metadata indicates it was created by Brett Lloyd, CEO of The Polling Company, which was founded by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

America First Policies itself was co-founded by Brad Parscale, who Trump tapped this week to run his 2020 reelection campaign.

Setting aside the propriety of the groups working together, the survey results obtained by Marijuana Moment demonstrate the deeply unpopular nature of the Trump administration’s decision to remove protections for state marijuana policies, a move that is in conflict with the president’s repeated campaign pledges to respect local cannabis laws.

The data, particularly that showing opposition to overarching federal marijuana prohibition laws among Trump’s base of voters, could also add to growing tensions between the president and the attorney general. The two have clashed over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with Trump tweeting this week that Sessions is “DISGRACEFUL.”

See the full topline results of the America First Policies marijuana polling questions below:

66. When it comes to legalizing marijuana, which comes closest to your point of view…

43% Marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational purposes

39% Marijuana should be legal for medical purposes, but not recreational purposes

13% Marijuana should be illegal

2% Depends / other (vol)

3% Unsure / refused (vol)
____________________________________________________________________________________________
67. Do you support or oppose the Department of Justice instructing all U.S. Attorneys to enforce federal marijuana laws, including prohibiting the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana?

(Phone version: If choice made, ask: Is that strongly or somewhat (support / oppose)?

36% Total Support

53% Total Oppose

21% Strongly Support

16% Somewhat Support

16% Somewhat Oppose

36% Strongly Oppose

3% Depends / other (vol)

8% Unsure / refused (vol)
____________________________________________________________________________________________
68. Still thinking about marijuana laws, which comes closest to your own opinion… (ROTATE)

60% Each state should be allowed to individually determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes within the boundaries of their state, regardless of federal law.

31% The federal government should determine whether or not to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational purposes for the entire country, and should enforce the law in every state regardless of local laws.

4% Depends / other (vol)

5% Unsure / refused (vol)

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

Politics

Idaho Senator Files Bill To Decriminalize Drug Possession

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A new bill filed by an Idaho senator would decriminalize possession of currently illegal drugs in the state, though it also contains a provision that advocates consider troubling, allowing the government to involuntarily commit people convicted of certain offenses to treatment.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne (D) introduced the legislation, which would remove criminal penalties for drug use and possession by “requiring intention to deliver for criminal trafficking.”

Burgoyne told Marijuana Moment the bill has been referred to the Judiciary and Rules Committee, where Chairman Todd Lakey (R) has agreed to hold a hearing on it.

“We have too much of a focus on prosecution and punishment and not enough on treatment,” Burgoyne said in a separate interview with KTVB. “We don’t have a functioning mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment capability for the needs of our people. We need new strategies, how we draw the lines between what is criminal conduct and what is not criminal conduct when it comes to drug possession and usage.”

The bill sets different possession thresholds for different drugs. Having just two grams of heroin could be considered trafficking, while for cocaine and methamphetamine, the amount is set at 28 grams. One pound of marijuana, or 25 plants, could be treated as a trafficking offense.

Any amount of LSD could be considered a trafficking offense, as could any amount of a “simulated controlled substance,” possibly referring to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Using drugs with friends would also be harshly penalized, as “sharing or providing a controlled substance for use by another person shall constitute intent to deliver.”

“This will reduce arrests, but how much is very hard to predict,” Burgoyne told Marijuana Moment. “Unfortunately, illegal drug use, even in private, is too often accompanied by the commission of other crimes, which my bill does not excuse and which could lead to arrest.”

Burgoyne’s bill would also allow people using drugs to be “placed in protective custody” or “admitted for community-assisted behavioral health treatment.” This would apply to people under the influence and in various circumstances, such as being pregnant, posing a risk to themselves or others or in withdrawal.

But existing research on mandatory drug treatment suggests it is not helpful for people with substance use disorder. A 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal, for example, found that when people are ordered to undergo drug treatment without their informed consent, the practice does more harm than good and does not reduce their drug use. The researchers explained that harm reduction efforts like syringe exchanges and drug education were more effective.

“Although there is some theoretical danger of adverse consequences to mandated drug treatment, we already mandate it for prisoners with drug issues,” Burgoyne said. “I’d like to shift treatment out of our jails and prisons to a more appropriate place. Furthermore, a civil commitment is not an easy thing to obtain, and I think our courts will be conservative in how they handle them.”

If the senator’s legislation passes, it remains to be seen what effect it would have on drug arrest rates in Idaho. According to the FBI, in 2017 Idaho had 8,432 arrests for “drug abuse violations,” which is a little over 16 percent of all arrests that year.

Burgoyne’s reform proposal comes amid a growing national debate about the value of decriminalizing drug use over more arrests. Last year in May, Denver became the first city in the U.S. to decriminalize personal use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms. Oakland’s City Council followed the next month by decriminalizing a wide range of psychedelics.

Advocates are also raising the issue on the national stage. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) proposed decriminalizing drug consumption in November. Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has proposed decriminalizing drug possession and reducing sentences. His primary opponent, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), recently called for legalizing and regulating drugs in order to treat substance misuse as a public health issue.

Tulsi Gabbard Endorses Legalizing Drugs

Photo coutersy of Markus Spiske.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Politics

U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In Annual Speech

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The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) repeated his call for marijuana legalization in his annual State of the Territory address.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. (D), who called the legislature into a special session last month to begin taking up cannabis reform legislation, stressed that establishing a commercial marijuana market would bring in needed tax revenue to support a variety of government programs.

The proposed amendment to the territory’s existing medical cannabis law, which Bryan signed last year, would allow adults 21 and older to obtain a license from the government in order to purchase and cultivate marijuana. It would also promote participation in the industry by small farmers and local businesses, as well as providing for automatic expungements of prior cannabis convictions.

“Most importantly, it creates a taxing regime for the local industry that will generate higher revenues than the current law allows,” he said in the speech last Monday, noting that tax revenue will be distributed between the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) fund (75 percent), implementation of regulations (20 percent) and services for senior citizens (5 percent).

“The revenues generated from this industry can benefit the system as a direct contribution,” the governor said. “However, the goal is to create a funding stream that is reliable enough to ultimately support a revenue bond that can provide a needed cash infusion to the system.”

Watch Bryan’s marijuana comments, first reported by Vibe High, about 36:24 into the video below:

“This is by no means the panacea or final solution for the GERS crisis, but a small part of a larger solution,” he continued. “It begins the process of generating the new revenues required to stave off the insolvency of the System. It takes existing policy, approved by this body, and leverages it to support this critical area of need.”

“We must acknowledge the opportunities that regulated expansion of this industry can bring to the territory and the potential benefits to the GERS,” he said. “I urge this body to take the necessary action to approve the amending legislation we have proposed.”

Bryan’s proposal calls for a 30 percent tax on marijuana sales, with revenue expected to be upwards of $20 million annually. His administration is also expecting the policy change to stimulate tourism, and visitors interested in participating in the market would be charged a $10 per day fee to access legal cannabis.

If approved, that would make USVI the third U.S. territory to legalize cannabis for adult use—after Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

This year has seen several governors voice support for marijuana reform during their high-profile annual addresses and in legislative agendas. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) reaffirmed his commitment to legalization in his State of the State speech and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) pledged to pursue decriminalization, for example.

In New Mexico, the governor included legalization in her 2020 agenda, and lawmakers followed suit by filing a cannabis reform bill on Thursday. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) proposed legalizing marijuana through a state-run model in a budget proposal released on Thursday.

Rhode Island Governor’s Budget Includes Legal Marijuana Sales In State-Run Stores

Photo courtesy of Nicholas C. Morton.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Tulsi Gabbard Endorses Legalizing Drugs

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is calling for the U.S. to legalize currently illicit drugs.

“If we take that step to legalize and regulate, then we’re no longer treating people who are struggling with substance addiction and abuse as criminals and instead getting them the help that they need,” the 2020 presidential candidate said at a campaign stop in Merrimack, New Hampshire on Friday.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Photo element courtesy of Lorie Shaull.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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