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of which was first reported by CNBC, was conducted roughly two weeks after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference.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:
Republican Men (17%)
Republican Women (14%)
Democrat Men (13%)
Democrat Women (22%)
Independent Men (13%)
Independent Women (13%)
Trump Voter (39%)
Trump Supporter (55%)
2018 Competitive State (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.”
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
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.
Opposition Group’s Marijuana Poll Shows Strong Support for Legalization
A new survey of Michigan voters, funded by an organization opposed to the state’s marijuana legalization initiative, showed large support for reform and weaning support for prohibition.
The survey of 800 Michigan residents, which was conducted from May 1 to May 6, was orchestrated by Healthy and Productive Michigan.
Before being prompted with arguments for and against the initiative—which surpassed the required signatures to qualify for the state’s November ballot last month—respondents favored full cannabis legalization 48 percent to 42 percent, with 11 percent remaining undecided, according to the survey.
Arguments in favor of the proposed initiative, including increased tax revenue for public programs such as education funding and infrastructure, caused opposition to the initiative to drop to 36 percent. Support remained at 48 percent.
And then, even after the polling firm Victory Phones provided arguments opposing the initiative, support for legalization grew by one percent to 49 percent. Opposition ended up at 38 percent.
“Previous polls showing majority support didn’t pass the smell test. When polling, it is always important to review how the questions are asked and what size of audience responds,” Healthy and Productive Michigan’s President Scott Greenlee said in a press release. “Our poll pointed out arguments on both sides of the issue in a consistent and unbiased manner, and the fieldwork was conducted by the highly respected Victory Phones, who have a nearly 10 year track record of accurately measuring election results in Michigan.”
But the truth is that the prohibitionist organization’s poll showed that support for the legalization measure outweighs opposition, and that’s even more true after voters hear prohibitionist’s best arguments.
The share of voters who said they planned to vote against the measure dropped seven percentage points after they were read Healthy and Productive Michigan’s reasons for wanting to defeat it. Support rose one percentage point.
The proposed Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act would permit adults 21 and older to legally possess, grow and consume small amounts of marijuana. Specifically, adults would be allowed to grow up to 12 total cannabis plants in a single residence, and possess 2.5 ounces outside their homes and store 10 ounces at home.
Healthy and Productive Michigan did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
See the full poll below:
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.
Marijuana Isn’t Addictive, Former A.G. Eric Holder Says
The nation’s former top law enforcement officer is not worried that the legalization of marijuana will lead to addiction.
“I’ve never seen any scientific evidence that points you to concerns about addiction through the use of marijuana,” former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an interview published on Friday by NY1.
The comments by the former A.G. call into question cannabis’s current status as a Schedule I drug. That category is supposed to be reserved only for substances with no medical value and a high potential for abuse. In fact, it would mean that marijuana should be moved to at least Schedule III, where drugs with “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence” are categorized.
Although Holder did not move to reclassify cannabis when he had the power to do so as attorney general, he did specifically endorse such a change just months after leaving office.
“I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled,” he said in a 2015 interview with PBS.
And he still feels the same way.
“We need to move marijuana from Schedule I, so research can be done,” Holder said in the new NY1 interview. “It is classified now on the same level as heroin is, and clearly that is inappropriate.”
While he did nothing to officially recategorize marijuana as attorney general — and continually passed the buck to Congress when asked about the issue — Holder’s Justice Department did issue guidance, known as the Cole Memo, which generally allowed states to implement their own cannabis laws without federal interference.
Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo earlier this year.
In the new interview, Holder said he thinks the federal government should continue letting states implement their own legalization laws.
“Let those be laboratories to see where we want to be,” he said. “I think if you allow the states to experiment we’ll ultimately come to a national consensus about what it is we ought to do with regard to marijuana.”
He also spoke about unfair enforcement of cannabis criminalization.
“One of the things that I am concerned about, though, is the racial disparity you see in the enforcement of marijuana laws,” he said. “You see African Americans, Latinos using marijuana at just about the same rates as whites, and yet seeing rates of arrest four, five times as great as it is for whites. That is something that I think is extremely troubling.”
Photo courtesy of US Embassy New Zealand.
Congressional Committee Protects Medical Marijuana From Jeff Sessions
A powerful congressional panel voted on Thursday to continue shielding medical marijuana patients and providers who comply with state laws from prosecution by the federal government.
While the provision has been federal law since 2014, when it was first attached to legislation that funds the U.S. Department of Justice, its continuance has been in question because of recent efforts by Republican leadership to prevent votes on cannabis amendments. But in a stunning bipartisan move, the House Appropriations Committee voted to add the provision as a rider to legislation funding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s department for Fiscal Year 2019.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)