By Steve Elliott
Only six percent of Americans think minor marijuana possession should result in jail time, according to a new poll. The poll also found that a strong plurality of Americans think the use or possession of cannabis should not have any punishment at all.
When asked, “Which approach do you think government and law enforcement should take toward someone found smoking marijuana or in possession of a small amount of marijuana?”, six percent said possession should be punishable with jail, 20 percent said it should result in mandatory substance abuse counseling, 32 percent said users should be fined, and 35 percent said people caught with small amounts of cannabis shouldn’t be punished at all.
The results, according to Reason.com, suggest that Americans have grown comfortable with the idea of decriminalizing pot, that is, reducing the penalty for minor possession to a civil fine. They are also more sympathetic than ever to the idea of full legalization.
The telephone poll of 1,003 people found that a majority of Americans say they would support a law from Congress that would “prevent the federal government from prosecuting people who grow, possess, or sell marijuana in the states that have legalized it.”
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they would support such protection for both medical and recreational marijuana laws, even though cannabis remains illegal for any purpose under federal law. Forty-two percent said they would oppose such protections.
The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act — which would institute exactly such protections — was introduced last month by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI).
(Photo: Crooks and Liars)
It would be interesting to see similar polls in other Western countries. There seems to be a growing move towards decriminalisation, or fines for actual possession up to a maximum amount. In New Zealand there are many people receiving jail sentences for possession of marijuana who would warrant a fine for first offences. It seems excessive for people to have their future lives ruined because they were caught with a small amount on their person. What are your opinions readers? Medical marijuanna is a different subject though. It is legal in NZ, but the government will not subsidise it.