Poll: Majority support legalizing pot as states move to reduce penalties

A majority of those surveyed in a new national poll said they supported making marijuana legal. As Scott Clement writes at The Fix:

By 52 to 45 percent more say marijuana should be made legal than not, with support for legalization jumping seven points in two years and 20 points since the 2002 General Social Survey. . .

As public opinion has shifted, the politics of marijuana have become more complicated. Laws legalizing recreational marijuana use passed in Washington State and Colorado last year remain in limbo with the federal government’s ban on production, possession and sale of the drug unchanged. Six in 10 Americans say federal laws should not be enforced in states that have decided to allow marijuana use.

Businesspeople in Colorado are preparing to sell marijuana under the new laws there, and dispensaries are opening in the District, despite the federal law. Meanwhile, the Maryland legislature also is considering more lenient marijuana laws (Read more on those proposals here and here.).

These new laws conflict with the federal ban, but Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews explains that the White House could easily decriminalize marijuana use for medical purposes:

Irv Rosenfeld has received shipments of marijuana cigarettes from the federal government for more than 30 years. They’ve eased the impact of his rare illness and created some awkward moments at airport security. (The Fold/The Washington Post)

Upon petition from private citizens, the DEA can initiate a process that results in a drug being rescheduled. . . In effect, Eric Holder could direct the agency to remove marijuana from the list of scheduled drugs, decriminalizing it for medical use federally. That doesn’t help recreational users, but it would let medicinal users and suppliers breathe a lot easier. While states could still ban it for medicinal use, those that opt not to would no longer run afoul of federal law.

In an opinion piece for The Post, Peter Wehner argues against legalization:

Individuals and families need support in society and the public arena. Today, many parents rightly believe the culture is against them. Government policies should stand with responsible parents — and under no circumstances actively undermine them.

Drug legalization would do exactly that. It would send an unmistakable signal to everyone, including the young: Drug use is not a big deal. We’re giving up. Have at it.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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