35 Years Later, Half Of All Americans Still Support
Shafer Commission’s Recommendations
Washington, DC: A slight majority of Americans support amending federal law to remove "criminal penalties for the personal use of marijuana by adults," according to a national poll of 1,078 likely voters by Zogby International and commissioned by the NORML Foundation.
Forty-nine percent of respondents – including 57 percent of men – said they would support "a law in Congress that would eliminate federal penalties for the personal use of marijuana by adults and allow states to adopt their own policies on marijuana." This proposal, commonly known as ‘decriminalization,’ was first recommended to Congress by the US National Commission on Marihuana (sic) and Drug Abuse (aka The Shafer Commission) 35 years ago today, on March 22, 1972.
Forty-eight percent of those polled by Zogby said they would oppose such a law. Three percent were undecided.
The poll has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.
Respondents' support for marijuana law reform was strongly influenced by age and political affiliation. More than half of Americans (52 percent) between the ages of 30 and 64 supported decriminalizing pot, while only 45 percent of those under age 30 and 43 percent of seniors endorsed it.
Among those who identified themselves as political Independents, 62 percent supported federal decriminalization legislation, as did 51 percent of Democrats. Only 37 percent of Republicans supported eliminating federal penalties for minor marijuana offenses.
Respondents’ opinions were also influenced by educational level and ethnicity. Fifty-three percent of those polled who had obtained college degrees said they backed decriminalization versus only 44 percent of those without college diplomas.
A majority of whites (51 percent) and nearly half of African Americans (49 percent) said that they supported decriminalization, while support among Hispanics was only 26 percent.
The poll found little difference in attitudes among parents (48 percent support) and non-parents (50 percent support) on the issue. Americans’ views did not vary significantly by region.
Gender and holding a belief in God significantly influenced respondents’ opinions. Among those polled, 57 percent of men said they supported removing criminal pot penalties versus only 41 percent of women. Of those who reported having no religious affiliation, 63 percent supported decriminalization legislation.
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre noted that the poll was one of several recent surveys indicating growing support for ending cannabis prohibition. "This latest poll confirms an 80 percent upward swing in public opinion since 1990 in favor of ending the war on cannabis consumers," he said.
A previous Zogby poll of 1,004 likely voters commissioned last year by the NORML Foundation reported that 46 percent of Americans support allowing states to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the NORML Foundation, or Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at (202) 483-5500.