The Trump administration is threatening a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the drug is only “slightly less awful” than heroin. And Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly this week labeled it a “dangerous gateway drug.”
They are way behind the times.
A new CBS News poll — it's 4/20, get it? — shows the fast march toward legal marijuana continues apace, with 61 percent of registered voters favoring it — an all-time high (so to speak). This includes 46 percent of Republicans who are now, remarkably, about evenly split on the question (46 percent in favor vs. 49 percent against).
What's more, Americans even more overwhelmingly disagree with the Trump administration's posture here.
Just 24 percent agree that the federal government should try to stop marijuana use in the fast-growing number of states that have legalized it, while 71 percent say it should not. That's nearly a 3-to-1 rebuke of what Sessions is moving toward doing. And the numbers confirm a Quinnipiac University poll in February that shows people opposed a crackdown by almost the exact same margin, 71 percent to 23 percent.
In addition, people seem to strongly disagree with Sessions's characterization that marijuana is akin to other drugs such as heroin. Fully 65 percent say marijuana is less dangerous than other drugs. An additional 27 percent say it's just as dangerous, while 4 percent say it's more dangerous.
And 88 percent — about as close to a consensus as you get in polling — support using it for medicinal purposes. That suggests that even many people who say it's as dangerous as other drugs such as heroin perhaps don't truly believe that.
And it's again counter to Sessions's position on this issue; he recently said that “medical marijuana has been hyped, maybe too much.”
“Dosages can be constructed in a way that might be beneficial — I acknowledge that — but if you smoke marijuana, for example, where you have no idea how much THC you’re getting, it’s probably not a good way to administer a medicinal amount,” he said last month. “So forgive me if I’m a bit dubious about that.”
Even within the Trump administration, there seems to be some uncertainty about the path forward laid by Sessions. Before his “dangerous gateway drug” comment, Kelly seemed to offer quite a different take on NBC's “Meet the Press” over the weekend, saying that “marijuana is not a factor in the drug war.” But that's really difficult to square with his more recent comment that it leads to other drugs. And it seems pretty clear there was a course correction to fit with the administration's overall policy.
If that's indeed a sign of things to come, though, the Trump administration will be doing something the American people clearly and overwhelmingly oppose, and at a time when their position is only becoming more unpopular — and rather quickly.