Most Americans think marijuana should be legal, according to a new poll that comes as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer looks to introduce legislation that would decriminalize the drug on the federal level.
A CBS News survey found that 59 percent of Americans think marijuana should be made legal. Sixty-one percent of Americans think the decision to legalize the drug should be left up to the states, while 33 percent think it should the decision of the federal government.
Opinions across party lines differ, with just under half, 49 percent, of Republicans favoring legalization and 64 percent of Democrats saying the same. Sixty-four percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Democrats believe state governments should decide legalization. Thirty-two percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats think the decision should be made by the federal government.
Schumer, D-N.Y., is backing a bill that would address federal marijuana policy. His bill, set for introduction on 4/20, the unofficial day celebrating marijuana use and the culture surrounding it, would remove the drug from the list of scheduled substances. Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, defined as having "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration – a classification that equates its potential danger with that of heroin, NPR reported.
The Obama administration issued guidance to federal prosecutors to avoid pursuing charges in most cases where people were complying with state law, paving the way for states to establish their own policies without federal interference. That policy has since been revoked by the Trump administration, but authorities have largely steered clear of meddling in states that have loosened restrictions on medicinal or recreational marijuana.
Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for recreational use.
According to the CBS poll, 63 percent of Americans say marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. Twenty-eight percent think it is "just as dangerous," and just 4 percent think marijuana is more dangerous than most other drugs. Slightly more than half, 51 percent, of Americans say alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana.
Additionally, 28 percent of people think the legalization of marijuana will make it more likely for people to use other illegal drugs, while almost half think it will have no effect. Twenty-four percent think the legalization of the drug will increase violent crime, while 20 percent think it will decrease violent crime.
Along with federal decriminalization, Schumer's legislation will also "establish funding for women- and minority-owned marijuana businesses, require additional research on the drug's public health impact and maintain federal authority to regulate commercial advertising, similar to existing regulations for tobacco and alcohol," according to NPR.
Schumer told Vice News he's seen "too many people's lives ruined because they've had small amounts of marijuana."
"If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else," Schumer said, "why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?"
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