Marijuana News Roundup: More Than Half of Americans Favor Legalizing Pot

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In a poll released Friday by the Pew Research Center, the researchers report that 57% of Americans said that marijuana should be legal compared with 37% who said it should not. That’s nearly exactly the opposite of poll results from 10 years ago when 60% of Americans said marijuana should not be legal and 32% said it should.

We noted in our report on Friday that support for legalizing marijuana has broadened across all age groups, with millennials more than twice as likely to support legalization now as they were 10 years ago. More than half of Gen Xers (57%) and a majority of boomers (56%) now support legalization, up from 21% and 17%, respectively, 10 years ago.

How this change in attitude will play out at the polls remains to be seen. Because there is no indication that federal law will change any time soon, marijuana legalization, whether for medical or recreational purposes, remains a state-level decision. Five states — California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Arizona, and Maine — will decide whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and three more — Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota — will vote on measures to make medical marijuana use legal. Montana has already voted in favor of medical marijuana, but a recent state supreme court decision has effectively put dispensaries out of business.

Among the five states voting on measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use, recent polling indicates that the only state where opponents hold an edge is Arizona. The amount of money each side has available for a final push in the state is unevenly divided, with proponents holding $3.18 million to opponents $1.85 million. The most recent poll shows opponents with 45% of the vote to 44% for supports and 11% undecided according to Ballotpedia.

Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States

Every 25 seconds in the United States, someone is arrested for the simple act of possessing drugs for their personal use … . Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime. More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year. And despite officials’ claims that drug laws are meant to curb drug sales, four times as many people are arrested for possessing drugs as are arrested for selling them.

As a result of these arrests, on any given day at least 137,000 men and women are behind bars in the United States for drug possession, some 48,000 of them in state prisons and 89,000 in jails, most of the latter in pretrial detention. Each day, tens of thousands more are convicted, cycle through jails and prisons, and spend extended periods on probation and parole, often burdened with crippling debt from court-imposed fines and fees. Their criminal records lock them out of jobs, housing, education, welfare assistance, voting, and much more, and subject them to discrimination and stigma. The cost to them and to their families and communities, as well as to the taxpayer, is devastating. Those impacted are disproportionately communities of color and the poor.

This report lays bare the human costs of criminalizing personal drug use and possession in the US, focusing on four states: Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and New York. Drawing from over 365 interviews with people arrested and prosecuted for their drug use, attorneys, officials, activists, and family members, and extensive new analysis of national and state data, the report shows how criminalizing drug possession has caused dramatic and unnecessary harms in these states and around the country, both for individuals and for communities that are subject to discriminatory enforcement.

Read more at Human Rights Watch.