DENVER – A majority of likely voters do not think it should be a crime for people to smoke pot inside their own home, and less than four in ten believe that the use of marijuana leads to the use of harder drugs, according to a survey conducted one day after Colorado became the first state to allow the regulated sale of recreational marijuana to adults over 21.
The results are likely to encourage opponents of marijuana prohibition, who backed successful initiatives in Colorado and Washington State to decriminalize pot in 2012.
While Colorado and Washington are the only two states who have taken the step, 21 states and the District of Colombia have decriminalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in defiance of federal law.
When asked if it should be a crime for people to smoke marijuana in their own home or the home of a friend, 57 percent of respondents said it should not be a crime, compared to just 29 percent who said it should. Another 14 percent said they were unsure.
A majority of men (57 percent) said it should not be a crime for people to smoke marijuana in their home or a friend’s home, as did a majority of women (58 percent), Democrats (67 percent), political independents (60 percent), whites (57 percent), blacks (67 percent) and those who did not identify themselves as either black or white (50 percent). A plurality of Republicans (44 percent) also said smoking pot in one’s own home should not be a crime.
The poll also showed that a key argument put forward by supporters of marijuana prohibition may be less persuasive than it once was. Critics of legalization often contend that marijuana is a “gateway drug” – claiming that pot invariably leads to the use of dangerous drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine. But less than four in ten respondents now accept that argument, according to the poll.
When asked if the use of marijuana leads to the use of harder drugs, just 39 percent said they believed it did, while 40 percent said it did not. Another 21 percent said they were unsure.
Conversely, survey respondents appear open to the primary argument put forward by legalization campaigners in Colorado that marijuana should be regulated like alcohol.
When asked if they would be “more likely” or “less likely” to support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in their own state if it was regulated in the same way alcohol and cigarettes are regulated, 42 percent said they would be “more likely” compared to just 25 percent who said they would be “less likely.” Another 29 percent said it would make no difference in their opinion.
“Most Americans are clearly fed up with the high cost of marijuana prohibition and are rightly recognizing it as a failed public policy,” said Joe Megyesy, who served as the conservative outreach director for the successful Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Colorado. “Right now Colorado is proving to the nation and to the world, that regulated legitimate businesses are far preferable to dangerous cartels and crime.”
A majority of those polled also backed the legalization of medical marijuana by a wide margin, 64 percent to 26 percent. That included a majority of men (64 percent), women (64 percent), Democrats (75 percent), Republicans (51 percent), political independents (64 percent), blacks (63 percent), whites (65 percent) and those who did not identify themselves as either white or black (59 percent).
The Rasmussen Reports national survey polled 1,000 likely voters January 2, 2014 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.