Article from Reason by Jacob Sullum.

“Half of Americans now support alternatives to full legalization of recreational marijuana use,” the anti-pot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) says in a press release about a poll it commissioned. That spin, which casts “full legalization” as the default option, speaks volumes about the evolution of public opinion on this issue. What SAM’s poll actually found is that federal marijuana prohibition is extremely unpopular.

For years SAM has argued that polls finding majority support for legalizing cannabis are misleading because it’s not clear exactly what policy respondents have in mind. Surveys generally ask, “Do you think that the use of marijuana should be legal, or not?” That is the wording used by Gallup, the Pew Research Center, Quinnipiac University, the General Social Survey, and CBS News. But a yes answer to that question could signify support for a range of policies, from eliminating penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana to allowing commercial production and distribution.

The options in SAM’s survey are more specific. The results are interesting, although probably not quite what an organization dedicated to scaring people about Big Marijuana wanted to see.

Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy, the firm hired by SAM, asked 1,000 respondents which of four policies “best describes your preference on national marijuana policy.” Sixteen percent chose “keep the current policy,” while 29 percent preferred to “legalize the use of marijuana for physician-supervised medical use.” Only 5 percent wanted to “decriminalize marijuana use by removing the possibility of jail time for possession and also allowing for medical marijuana, but keep the sale of marijuana illegal.” Forty-nine percent were ready for full legalization, saying the federal government should “legalize the commercial production, use and sale of marijuana for recreational use, as they have done recently in several states.”

Read the entire article at Reason.

Image Credit: By Chmee2 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons