A new poll has found that 75 percent of Americans believe that the sale of marijuana will eventually become legal across the nation—whether they supported legalization or not.
The Pew Research Center Poll, conducted in mid-February among 1,821 adults, also found that the number of people in favor of legalizing pot continues to grow. Four years ago, 52 percent of people said they thought marijuana use should not be legal. Now, 54 percent are in favor of marijuana legalization.
The survey also found that the public believes marijuana to be less harmful than alcohol. Sixty-nine percent of people believed alcohol was more harmful to a person's health than marijuana, with only 15 percent saying that they believed marijuana was more harmful. Similarly, 63 percent of people believed alcohol was more harmful to society in general than alcohol. A large majority of people surveyed (76 percent) believed that people convicted for possession of small amounts of weed should not have to serve jail time.
Public opinion on marijuana laws could affect changing policies on drug abuse. A new bipartisan effort in Congress hopes to reduce mandatory sentences for some drug crimes.
The national survey also found that 67 percent of Americans believe the government should focus on providing treatment for heroin and cocaine users, whereas only 26 percent of Americans thought the government should focus more on prosecuting drug users. Support for treatment over arrests spanned across demographic groups; even 51 percent of Republican agreed that the government should invest more in treatment.
The gradual sea change corresponds to a growing number of states easing penalties for drug possession. Between 2009 and 2013, 40 states eased their drug laws. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said it was a good thing that states were moving away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes.