August 13, 2013

Americans skeptical of value of enforcing marijuana laws


Roughly three–in-four Americans say government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s proposal to rein in mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders comes at a time when American attitudes toward marijuana use are the most lax they’ve ever been and Americans are highly skeptical of the value of enforcing marijuana laws.

A March Pew Research Center survey on changing attitudes about marijuana found that nearly three-in-four Americans (72%) believed that efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. And 60% said that the federal government should not enforce federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in states where it is legal. (Last fall, voters in two states – Colorado and Washington state – approved the purchase of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use).

While there are partisan differences over legalizing marijuana use and on whether smoking marijuana is morally wrong, there is broad agreement across partisan and demographic groups that government enforcement of marijuana laws is not worth the cost. Fully 78% of independents, 71% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans say government enforcement efforts cost more than they are worth.

Older Americans are less likely than younger age groups to say government enforcement efforts are too costly: 63% of those over age 65 say this, compared with 72% of those aged 50-64, 73% of those aged 30-49 and 76% of 18- to 29-year-olds.

Public attitudes towards marijuana use have softened over the past few decades. Today, 38% of Americans view marijuana as a “gateway drug,” down from 60% recorded in a 1977 Gallup poll. However, older Americans are much more likely to say marijuana use leads to harder drugs: 56% of those ages 65+ say this, compared with only about a third of those in younger age groups.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Criminal Justice, Drugs

  1. Photo of Andrea Caumont

    is the social media editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. The Amazing Secret Of How One Might Take control of security With No Need Of Past experiences!4 years ago

    I’ll right away seize your rss feed as I can’t to find your email subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly allow me understand in order that I may subscribe. Thanks.

  2. Chill Bill4 years ago

    DON’T DO IT!!!
    I currently live in California, a state with “Legal Medical Marijuana”, and “lax marijuana laws”. A few years ago I was laid off, hunting for ways to survive, when I discovered many articles such as this, and the imaginary veil of “Medical Marijuana Laws”. I had some friends who owned a dispensary, and was told the legalities of being a grower caregiver; which turned into a group of us working as caregiver growers for state legal Medical Marijuana Collectives in the area. We had multiple lawyer opinions and were under the complete illusion that we were a legal operation. We paid taxes, had absolutely no ties to violence, nor was there any sort of drug kingpin. This last spring, the DEA let us know we weren’t legal at all. They performed a SWAT style raid (with helicopters), destroyed all the property, broke windows, and held extremely scared girls at gun point. The only thing missing were tanks and NAVY Seals. They decided to raid our personal houses, and damage them in the same manner. They took the little money I had (about $1500), my computer, cell phone and anything worth value. Long story short-Since then, I had to move, mostly due to embarrassment and no money. I borrowed money for a lawyer, who after painstaking meetings, is trying to plea deal with the Department of Justice down from a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence. Most likely, I’m looking at 4 yrs in Federal Prison. This is after Eric Holders statements on dropping mandatory minimums altogether. My girlfriend is pregnant and due in January. Although I hate saying it, until the Feds change things, articles such as this are helping land people in prison.

  3. Marty4 years ago

    Speaking as a 79 year old disabled veteran, I totally support full legalization, end prohibition.
    The VA now allows disabled vet patients to take medical Cannabis as an adjunct therapy, and is the VA not part of our federal government. Total disconnect with reality at the top of government. Some VA doctors recommend it to me.

    ALL of my older generation friends support the end of prohibition.

    1. digitaldave4 years ago


  4. Stuart Morgan4 years ago

    I hardly doubt the older generations views are based at all on fact… Therefore there opinions don’t matter??

  5. Brian4 years ago

    Where do you people get your percentages ? Has anyone polled every single American in the country ? and Public Attitudes….which public ? Take away all the dumb percentage remarks and this is the kind of thing some of us have been saying since 1969

  6. steve4 years ago

    it does not lead to hard drugs,,,

  7. finally4 years ago

    DEA = Don’t Expect Anything

  8. Jose Gonzales4 years ago

    In order to follow the steps that led to the end of alcohol prohibition, the next step is religious marijuana, in the same manner that churches were allowed to serve wine.

    For religious marijuana, one possibility is the Church of Smoke.

    1. finally4 years ago

      now your talking

    2. Stuart Morgan4 years ago

      Yea but we need to get rid of religion……

  9. Knowa Knowa4 years ago

    CNN. On August 14, 1970, the Assistant Secretary of Health, Dr. Roger O. Egeberg wrote a letter recommending the plant, marijuana, be classified as a schedule 1 substance, and it has remained that way for nearly 45 years. My research started with a careful reading of that decades old letter. What I found was unsettling. Egeberg had carefully chosen his words:
    “Since there is still a considerable void in our knowledge of the plant and effects of the active drug contained in it, our recommendation is that marijuana be retained within schedule 1 at least until the completion of certain studies now underway to resolve the issue.”
    Not because of sound science, but because of its absence, marijuana was classified as a schedule 1 substance. Again, the year was 1970. Egeberg mentions studies that are underway, but many were never completed. As my investigation continued, however, I realized Egeberg did in fact have important research already available to him, some of it from more than 25 years earlier

    1. Jose Gonzales4 years ago

      If you understand how the law was created with corruption, then you can understand that changing it is next to impossible. Even with the states nullifying federal law, the feds have continued raiding medical marijuana dispensaries and going against state law.

    2. Mark4 years ago

      Are you Sanjay Gupta ha?

  10. ThePublic4 years ago

    Our skepticism is related to the increased availability of information. This is reflected in the demographics, where propaganda such as the gateway drug theory still rings true for older Americans.

    Trends show that we are increasingly skeptical of government. If the drug war has been revealed as a giant lie, which of the state’s other grand ‘narratives’ will crumble next?

    1. Glen Brock4 years ago

      I started on milk. Took a drag off a cigarette at a very young age, gagged, turned green, puked 20 times. Also drank part of a beer and did so before I was 10, but the gateway drug was clearly the calcium in the milk.

      Trends show that we are increasingly skeptical of government because we know that the government lies to us all the time.

      Everyone knows that the CIA has been the biggest dope dealer on the planet since at least the 60’s. Its the only reason they went to Vietnam and illegally incurred into Cambodia and Laos in search of more herion. The CIA of course would deny it but I believe the Vietnam War Veterans before I would ever believe the word of the CIA, whos job is to keep secrets. So they are professional deceivers by that standard and theres a huge pile of evidence and stories which are flatly denied.

      They have to get the money for their black ops from somewhere and they cant go to congress for it. Therefore drug distribution for quick, hard, liquid cash is the simplest means to get it.

      The CIA doesnt want marijauna legal because they stand to lose the most if it becomes legal and government regulated. IT is illegal to hinder a CIA airplane in any way. They have unrestricted airspace which makes it easy to get a plane straight to, say Arkansas, from Columbia. Cops cant stop them or search the planes – under federal law it would be a crime to do so which is corrupt in itself: A government agency which has no one to answer to.

      The next lie is “we go to war on foreign soil to protect American interests.” Define ‘interests’ and be specific. Clearly one of those interests is the illegal drug trade.

      Bring our troops home and let them defend OUR soil.