The proportion of Americans who express support for marijuana legalization in opinion polls has risen sharply over the past decade from the low 30s to as high as 60 percent. But a new poll shows that what Americans who support "marijuana legalization" actually want is more nuanced than it might appear.
The anti-legalization advocacy organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) commissioned Emerson College pollsters to ask 600 registered voters in New York State about marijuana policy. The proportion who agreed that "the use of marijuana should be made legal for adults aged 21 and older" was 60 percent, virtually identical to the 62 percent who answered the same question affirmatively in a prior Emerson College poll of New York State voters commissioned by legalization advocacy organizations. Respondents don't know the views of the organization that has commissioned the poll, so it is unsurprising that the results were so similar across polls despite the opposing views of their sponsors.
However, the SAM poll included a second question, which took into account the fact that New York State has already legalized medical marijuana and has removed criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana (a policy known as "decriminalization"). This more detailed question was "Knowing that personal marijuana possession is already decriminalized and medicalized in New York, which one of the following policies do you prefer?"