The scary-sounding and often-inaccurate claims trumpeted by medical marijuana opponents – legalization leads to a sharp increase in crime, more teens will get their hands on the drug, only healthy 20-something males get MMJ cards – seem to be falling on deaf ears.
Several polls in recent weeks show strong and growing support among the general public for the legalization of medical marijuana, which bodes well for the future of the industry and for states considering MMJ legislation.
The surveys highlight a growing disconnect between the public and the federal government, which according to one recent report has spent nearly $300 million in recent years cracking down on medical marijuana businesses in states that have legalized the drug. More than 1,000 dispensaries and scores of related businesses have closed as a result. While some of those businesses were no doubt violating state medical marijuana regulations, many were in full compliance with local laws yet were swept up in the crackdown.
According to numerous polls, the public is squarely on the medical marijuana industry’s side, though.
– A poll released today by the Huffington Post and YouGov found overwhelming support for medical marijuana, the MMJ industry and recreational cannabis. About 60% of respondents said they “strongly” or “somewhat” favor allowing doctors to prescribe small amounts of marijuana to patients vs. just 26% that oppose it. Thirteen percent are not sure. In a big boost to MMJ businesses, the poll found that 57% of Americans think the federal government should “exempt patients and dispensaries who follow state law from enforcement,” while only 25% think the feds should enforce laws in those states just as it does across the nation. Moreover, 55% believe the government should exempt patients in states that have legalized marijuana for adult use from enforcement.
– In May, a Fox News poll found even higher levels of support, with 85% of Americans saying they back the idea of medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor. Respondents were more split on the idea of recreational marijuana, with 46% favoring it and 49% opposing it.
– Voters in many states that don’t currently have MMJ laws also back the idea. In New York – where a medical marijuana bill has cleared the Assembly and could get a hearing in the Senate – recent polls find support for MMJ at anywhere from 57% to more than 80%. A survey conducted earlier this year found that 63% of likely voters in Illinois – where a medical marijuana bill has cleared the legislature and now sits on the governor’s desk – favor legalizing MMJ vs. 32% who oppose it. Other states where legislation is not currently on the table but could be in the years to come, like Pennsylvania, see similar levels of support.
– A majority of doctors not only in the United States but also across the globe favor the use of marijuana for medical reasons, according to a recent poll by the New England Journal of Medicine. The survey found support levels at around 75%, though most of the responding physicians live in North America and Mexico.
This is just a small sampling of the many positive cannabis-related polls that have come out in the past six months.
Although the level of support varies from poll to poll, it’s clear that the majority of Americans are sympathetic to the medical marijuana cause. In fact, MMJ opponents are struggling right now to find a public opinion poll that will benefit their cause.
The changing attitudes of Americans will further fuel efforts to legalize medical marijuana in new states and could help the industry gain wider acceptance. Eventually, if support continues to grow at a rapid clip, the federal government will be forced to back off of the industry and reconsider its entire stance toward medical cannabis, which could lead to new laws that open up the floodgates for MMJ businesses.