President Joe Biden’s move to pardon people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses is popular among the public, according to a pair of new polls. And the White House is taking note of the strong support.
Separate surveys released on Tuesday by USA Today/Ipsos and Politico/Morning Consult show majority support for the pardon action, as well as Biden’s directive to conduct a review of the federal scheduling of cannabis. Most Americans also want to see their governors follow suit with clemency at the state level, as the president has encouraged.
For the first poll from Ipsos and USA Today, 67 percent of respondents said that they back Biden’s pardon proclamation. That includes a majority of Democrats (82 percent) and independents (71 percent). About half of Republicans (45 percent) said they support the decision.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain shared the poll on Twitter, indicating that the administration is closely monitoring public reaction to the cannabis move with the midterm elections just weeks away.
— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) October 11, 2022
The poll also shows that three out of four Americans (74 percent) are in favor of removing marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, which could happen depending on the outcome of a scientific review that the Justice Department and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are now “expeditiously” carrying out following Biden’s directive.
There was strong bipartisan support for taking cannabis out of Schedule I, with 84 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans saying that they back that proposal.
Additionally, 68 percent of respondents said that they support having their state’s governor issue pardons for people with marijuana possession convictions at the state level, where the bulk of cannabis cases are prosecuted. Support was strongest among Democrats (83 percent) and lowest among Republicans (44 percent).
A number of governors have said that they’d be reviewing their authority to grant cannabis clemency in light of the president’s action.
The poll also asked more broadly where respondents stand on releasing people who are incarcerated over marijuana possession at the state and federal levels. It found that 67 percent back that proposal, including 81 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents and 42 percent of Republicans.
In response to another question, most Americans (62 percent) said that decriminalizing marijuana would be an important step toward addressing the racial injustice in the criminal legal system, while 33 percent said the policy change would increase crime, drug trafficking and underage cannabis use.
One more data point that underscores the significance of Biden’s surprise marijuana policy announcements is the fact that 72 percent of respondents said that they’ve at least heard about the news by the time the survey was administered just days after the action.
The poll involved interviews with 1,028 adults from October 7-9, with a roughly +/-6 percentage point margin of error.
Meanwhile, the separate Politico and Morning Consult survey similarly found 65 percent of voters support the president’s pardons, and 69 percent back conducting a scheduling review.
About 80 percent of Democrats said they favor both moves. A majority of Republicans (57 percent) said they favor potentially rescheduling cannabis, while 46 percent said they support the possession pardons.
The survey—which involved interviews with 2,006 registered voters from October 7-9, with a +/-2 percentage point margin of error—also found that more than two-thirds of respondents were familiar with Biden’s action.
A third, earlier poll released the day after the announcement found that a majority of Americans are in favor of Biden’s pardon proclamation, and most also want to see their own governors follow suit with state-level cannabis relief.
Vice President Kamala Harris said on Monday that voters should elect lawmakers who support marijuana reform so that Congress can enact a “uniform approach” to the issue in light of the president’s cannabis pardons.
For his part, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said recently that he appreciates the “significant” step that the president has taken, but there’s “more that we can do” to address the drug war and he’s “very hopeful” that additional reform can be enacted before the end of this Congress.
While the senator said that he does believe legalization could pass, the expectation is that Congress will work to advance a package of incremental marijuana reform proposals that includes banking and research legislation during the lame duck session.
Several Cabinet-level officials have celebrated Biden’s cannabis reform actions, including the heads of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Department of Labor.
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.