New Poll Shows 9 Out Of 10 Americans Support Legal Pot

A new poll released on Tuesday shows that nearly nine out of 10 Americans believe that cannabis should be legal in some form, with a strong majority saying that recreational marijuana should be legalized for adults. The survey, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center last month, was published online on November 22 after being administered during the first half of October.

The results of the poll, which were essentially unchanged from a similar survey conducted in April 2021, showed that 88% of American adults surveyed believe that marijuana should be legalized. More than half (59%) said that medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis should be legal, while nearly a third (30%) said that cannabis should be legalized for medicinal use only. Only one in 10 respondents said that marijuana should be illegal in all cases.

Support For Legalization Varied By Age

Support for recreational marijuana legalization was sharply divided by the age of the poll’s respondents, with only 30% of those 75 and older believing that all forms of cannabis should be legalized. By contrast, 72% of those 18 to 29 years old said that both recreational marijuana and medical cannabis should be legalized, while 62% of respondents age 30 to 49 said the same. Just over half (54%) of adults aged 50 to 64 said both recreational and medical marijuana should be legal and 53% aged 65 to 74 agreed.

The new survey also found varying levels of support for marijuana legalization based on the political affiliation of respondents. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said that they believed that marijuana should be legal for both recreational and medical use and another 21% said that only medical marijuana should be legalized. Among liberal Democrats, 84% said both forms of cannabis should be legal, while nearly two-thirds (63%) of moderate and conservative Democrats said that they held the same view.

However, less than half (45%) of Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican said both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis should be legal, with an additional 39% saying only medical marijuana should be legalized. A majority (60%) of moderate and liberal Republicans said that both medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized, while less than four out of 10 (37%) conservative Republicans said both forms of cannabis should be legal. 

Poll Taken After Presidential Pardons Announced

The new poll was conducted after President Joe Biden announced on October 6 that he would pardon all federal convictions for simple marijuana possession and encouraged state governors around the country to take similar action. At the same time, the president directed the U.S. attorney general and the head of the Department of Health and Human Services to examine the rescheduling of cannabis under federal drug laws. 

About three weeks following the completion of the survey, voters in five states decided on ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana in the November midterm elections. The legalization bids succeeded in Maryland and Missouri, while similar proposals in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota were rejected by voters.

The new Pew Research Center poll, which was conducted October 10 through 16, also identified different levels of support for marijuana legalization among different racial groups. A majority of white (60%) and Black (68%) adults were in favor of ending the prohibition on both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis. By contrast, less than half of both Hispanic (49%) and Asian (48%) respondents said that they were in favor of full legalization.
The survey’s overall results are similar to a recently released Gallup Poll that also showed strong support for legalizing marijuana. In that survey, which was taken between October 3 and October 20 and did not differentiate between medical cannabis and recreational marijuana, more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said that they favored legalization, tying a record high for the poll. A Monmouth Universtiy poll released last month showed similar support.

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Majority of Nearly Every Subgroup in U.S. Favors Legal Pot, Gallup Poll Shows

Spanning across 35 subgroups divided by ideology, religiosity, and age, the majority of nearly every demographic supported legal cannabis in the U.S. with just two exceptions: Older conservatives ages 50+, and “people who attend church weekly.”

Gallup recently released a poll with the latest data conducted on Oct. 3 to 20. Study results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,009 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The list includes people from all walks of life, male and female, Democrat and Republican. Per usual, landline and cell phone telephone numbers were selected using random digit dial methods.

And using this and combined data gathered over the past five years—2018 through 2022—they released a stronger aggregated analysis of demographic differences in views about pot legalization, which they say is better than providing data from one poll alone.

Holding steady for the past two years, a record-high 68% of Americans across the board said they support legal pot. That number remained unchanged since the poll was conducted in 2020 and 2021.

Gallup Results Across Ideologies

People with no religious preference topped the list at 89%, liberals closed in second at 84%, Democrats at 81%, young adults close behind at 79%, and those who seldom or never attend religious services next at 78%.

The only subgroups that did not favor legal pot by majority are those who attend church weekly at 46% and conservatives at 49%—however younger conservatives ages 18 to 49 favored pot legalization slightly. Baby boomer conservatives, however, are a different story.

“Americans have grown much more supportive of legalizing marijuana over the past two decades, but support appears to be leveling off for now, not showing any change in the past three years,” wrote Jeffrey M. Jones in the poll report.

Protestants and Catholics showed equal support for legal pot at 60% each. It appears that college education changes attitudes to be more positive about cannabis: graduates supported legal pot more than non-graduates, with 69% and 66%, respectively. Stay in school, folks.

“While majorities of most major subgroups are in favor of legalizing marijuana, there are a few holdouts—-namely, political conservatives and regular churchgoers,” he continued. “Small segments of the population (in particular, older conservatives) are still disinclined to think marijuana use should be legal. However, younger conservatives and younger moderates are more inclined than their older counterparts to think cannabis should be legal. As such, in future decades support for legalizing marijuana can be expected to continue to grow as newer, likely more pro-marijuana, generations replace older generations in the U.S. population.”

Suburban residents supported legal pot the most at 72%, more than city residents (67%) and rural residents (60%). Men were also slightly more supportive of legal pot (70%) than women (65%).

In 1969, the first time Gallup conducted this poll, only 12% of Americans said cannabis should be legal. That number has gone up steadily, stalling briefly amid the “Just Say No” fever movement of the ‘80s, but climbing to 68% where it stands today. 

The polls show the normalization of cannabis use in America, which is light years away from prior generations.

Time is ticking for the generations that do not support legal pot, which shrinks consistently each year. Younger conservatives—who now support legal pot—are replacing their older counterparts and pretty soon, the ballot boxes.

Download the PDF of a complete list of Gallup’s poll responses here.

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New Poll Shows Two-Thirds of Americans Support Legalizing Weed

More than two-thirds of Americans are in favor of legalizing small amounts of cannabis for personal use, according to the results of a poll released on Monday. The new Monmouth University poll also showed broad support for President Joseph Biden’s recent executive order to pardon federal convictions for low-level marijuana possession and found that most Americans believe that cannabis is safer than alcohol.

“Polling from a variety of sources shows that support for marijuana legalization has been increasing consistently over the past twenty years,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll found that overall, 68% of respondents support legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Cannabis legalization was supported by 76% of Democrats, 73% of independent voters and 52% of Republicans. Young people showed the strongest support for legalizing marijuana, with 87% of those under 35 years old, while just over a majority (53%) of those aged 55 and older support legalization. 

Two-Thirds Support Biden’s Pardons

The Monmouth poll also showed strong support for Biden’s announcement on October 6 that he would pardon federal convictions for simple marijuana possession, with 69% of all respondents saying that they backed the president’s move.

“Biden’s action is in line with how the vast majority of Americans feel about this issue,” Murray said.

However, most were unsure about the scope of the pardons. An analysis by The New York Times determined that the pardons will affect about 6,500 people who were convicted of marijuana possession under federal law and thousands more in the District of Columbia. A quarter (25%) thought the number of convictions pardoned was less than 1,000, while a fifth (21%) thought the total was more than 10,000. One-fourth (26%) said the number was in the actual range of 1,000 to 10,000 convictions, while 29% declined to estimate.

More than half of Americans (54%) said that legalizing marijuana will have no impact on the number of crimes related to other drugs. A quarter (25%) said they believed legalizing marijuana would increase the number of other drug crimes, while 16% said that other drug crimes would decrease as a result of cannabis legalization.

Majority Believes Alcohol Is More Dangerous Than Weed

Most respondents (54%) said that they believed alcohol is more dangerous than weed, while only 7% said marijuana is more dangerous and 38% said they thought the two substances are equally dangerous. A plurality of respondents (45%) also thought pot is safer than tobacco. Only 13% said marijuana was more dangerous than tobacco and 38% said they were equally dangerous.

More than half (54%) of American adults said that they had tried marijuana, including 54% of Democrats, 51% of Republicans and 56% of independents. Those who had tried marijuana were more supportive of legalization, with 87% of those with personal experience with the plant favoring legalization and less than half (47%) of those who have never tried pot in favor of legalizing small amounts of cannabis.

Brian Vicente, founding partner of the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, believes that the strong support for marijuana legalization revealed by the new poll is likely to be reflected in next month’s midterm elections, when five states will be voting to legalize adult-use cannabis.

 “This poll is a milestone in cannabis policy, with a stunning 68% of Americans now supporting legalization. Importantly, we now have a majority of both major political parties and a broad swath of Americans regardless of age now supporting reform,” Vicente wrote in an email to High Times

“This research, combined with the overwhelmingly positive response to President Biden’s recent actions to pardon marijuana convictions is creating the most energized climate around cannabis reform that our country has seen in a decade,” he added. “This climate is likely to contribute to another 4 or 5 states legalizing cannabis on November 8th. All these factors will provide a boost to cannabis reformers in DC, which makes significant federal reform a real possibility this year.”

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from October 13 to 17, 2022 with 808 adults in the United States. The results have a margin of error of +/- 5.2 percentage points for the full sample.

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Legalization Advocates Bear Down for Difficult Race in South Dakota

Two years ago, South Dakota was a symbol of the radical shift in attitudes toward marijuana use in America—a deep red, Trump-loving state that had defied conventional wisdom and embraced weed.

But next month, the Mount Rushmore State could deal a reality check to the legalization movement.

Voters there are set to decide on Initiated Measure 27, which would legalize personal possession of marijuana for adults aged 21 and older in the state. Recent polling suggests that the electorate is split.

A new South Dakota State University poll released this week found that 47% of voters in the state are opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana, while 45% support the idea. Eight percent said they aren’t sure.

Initiated Measure 27 represents something of a do-over for advocates, after an amendment to legalize recreational cannabis was approved by South Dakota voters in 2020 only to be struck down by the courts following a legal challenge mounted by the state’s Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

Fifty-four percent of voters in the state approved Amendment A, but the state Supreme Court ultimately overturned it last November, ruling that it violated the South Dakota constitution’s “one subject” requirement for constitutional amendments.

Amendment A sought to change the state law on recreational marijuana, medical cannabis, and hemp. (Voters in South Dakota also approved a separate ballot proposal in 2020 that specifically legalized medical cannabis).

The state constitution “not only includes a single subject requirement but also directs proponents of a constitutional amendment to prepare an amendment so that the different subjects can be voted on separately,” Chief Justice Steven Jensen wrote in the majority opinion.

“This constitutional directive could not be expressed more clearly—each subject must be voted on separately—and simply severing certain provisions may or may not reflect the actual will of the voters,” Jensen wrote. “Therefore, we cannot accept Proponents’ suggestion that excising the medical marijuana and hemp provisions from Amendment A in favor of retaining the provisions regulating and legalizing recreational marijuana is an appropriate remedy. Amendment A is void in its entirety.”

Noem, a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“South Dakota is a place where the rule of law and our Constitution matter, and that’s what today’s decision is about,” she said at the time. “We do things right—and how we do things matters just as much as what we are doing. We are still governed by the rule of law.”

Initiated Measure 27 qualified for the South Dakota ballot in May, after the campaign behind it, South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, turned in enough verified signatures to the secretary of state’s office.

The campaign has taken a populist approach, saying that the measure will “restore the will of the people by legalizing cannabis in South Dakota for a second time.”

But this week’s poll from SDSU wasn’t the first sign that 2022 could be much different than 2020.

A survey released in late August from the local news nonprofit South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota found that 54% of voters in the state were against recreational cannabis legalization, while 44% said they are in favor.

With just a little over three weeks to go before Election Day, legalization advocates are now preparing to barnstorm South Dakota.

Matthew Schweich, the director for “South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws,” announced at a press conference on Wednesday that the campaign is kicking off an 18-city statewide tour this weekend. 

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Poll: Majority Backs Biden’s Cannabis Pardons

The country overwhelmingly supports President Biden’s historic moves on U.S. marijuana policy, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

The new poll, which comes via Politico and Morning Consult, found that 40% of Americans “strongly support” the president’s actions, while 25% “somewhat support” them.

Biden announced last week that he is issuing pardons to all individuals who have previously been convicted of a marijuana-related offense under federal law, a move that will impact thousands of Americans. Perhaps just as significantly, Biden said that he has asked “the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” a signal that the era of federal weed prohibition could be coming to an end.

That is welcome news to the vast majority of the country, according to the new poll.

Politico reported that almost “two-thirds of voters indicated that they support issuing pardons to people with nonviolent federal marijuana convictions,” compared with “fewer than one in four respondents [who] expressed opposition to pardoning marijuana offenders.”

The poll also suggests that Biden’s announcement last week broke through the ultra-saturated news cycle, with Politico reporting that more than “two thirds of respondents said they had heard a lot or some about the executive actions, while just 32 percent said they hadn’t heard much or anything about them.”

While Biden’s pardons only apply to individuals with federal pot convictions, the president urged “all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses.”

“As I often said during my campaign for President, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in his announcement last week. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

He also framed the announcement as a significant first step toward decriminalization.

“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” the president continued. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

With the midterm elections a little less than one month away, Democrats are hoping that Biden’s actions provide them with a lift. 

On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris touted Biden’s moves as a difference between the two parties, while also calling on both Congress and state elected officials to follow the administration’s lead.

“Let me just start with saying this. I strongly believe, and the majority of Americans agree, nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed, right?” Harris said during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. “We’re urging governors and states to take our lead and to pardon people who have been criminalized for possession of marijuana. And ultimately though, as with so many issues, if Congress acts, then there is a uniform approach to this and so many other issues. But Congress needs to act.”

“We’re 29 days away from the midterms,” the vice president added. “Ask who you’re voting for where they stand on this, and I encourage you to vote accordingly.”

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Majority in Maryland Backs Legalization Weeks Before Vote

Weeks before Maryland voters will head to the polls and decide whether to legalize recreational cannabis, a new survey suggests that the measure is poised to pass.

The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that 73% of voters in the state favor the legalization of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, while only 23% said they were opposed. Four percent of voters said they had no opinion.

The findings bode well for supporters of Question 4, which would legalize adult-use marijuana in Maryland beginning July 1, 2023, and establish a regulated cannabis market in the state.

Maryland is one of several states where voters will decide on recreational pot measures this November. (Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota are the others.)

The Washington Post-University of Maryland poll, released on Wednesday, suggests Maryland is highly likely to join the 19 other states that have legalized recreational pot use for adults.

“The thing that stood out to me is the high level of support and the diversity of support. Whether you look across party, region, almost every characteristic, you see majorities supporting this,” said Michael Hanmer, the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement, as quoted by The Washington Post. “That’s been the trend across the country. People have really shifted their views across time on this issue, all pointing in the direction of being more supportive.”

The Washington Post noted that the poll showed the measure to be “especially popular among young voters, with 87 percent of voters under 40 favoring legalization.”

“By far those most enthusiastic about legalization are young voters. Almost 9 in 10 voters under age 40 said they support legalizing cannabis, compared with roughly 7 in 10 of those ages 40 to 64 and just over half of those 65 and older,” the Post reported.

Moreover, the survey found that “77 percent of Black voters and 70 percent of White voters favor the proposal,” which also boasts “strong support from wide majorities of independents (81 percent) and registered Democrats (78 percent), along with a narrow majority of registered Republicans (53 percent).”

Lawmakers in Maryland passed legislation earlier this year to set a ballot referendum for marijuana legalization.

Question 4 is heavily backed by the cannabis giant Trulieve, which has several medical marijuana dispensaries in Maryland.

The chairman of the “Yes on 4” campaign is Eugene Monroe, a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens and a marijuana advocate.

“Legalizing cannabis would stimulate Maryland’s economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, while allowing Maryland residents to benefit from vital investments in education, public health, and public safety funded by cannabis taxes,” Monroe said last month, as the Question 4 campaign officially kicked off.

The “Yes on 4” campaign is bullish on what recreational marijuana could mean for Maryland’s economy.

“Marijuana legalization is projected to provide the state with over $135 million in tax revenue. That figure does not include city and county revenue or the savings from the millions of dollars Maryland spends each year enforcing marijuana possession laws. Passing Maryland Question 4 would empower local law enforcement to focus its limited resources on combating violent crimes. Of the ten counties in the United States with the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests, Maryland is home to three of them,” the campaign says on its website.

This week’s Washington Post-University of Maryland is not the first survey to suggest that Maryland voters are ready to end prohibition on pot.

A Goucher College poll released in March found that 62% of Maryland voters support legalizing cannabis for recreational use, compared with only 34% who said they were opposed.

That poll also found bipartisan support, with 65% of Democrats and independents, and 54% of Republicans, all saying they backed legalization.

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Will Missouri Vote To Legalize? Polls Paint a Messy Picture

In a little more than a month, voters in Missouri will head to the polls and decide whether or not the state should become the latest to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults.

The outcome appears to be decidedly up in the air.

The Missouri Independent this week highlighted a pair of recent polls that “found voters closely divided over the question of whether Missouri should legalize recreational marijuana use.”

A poll from Emerson College showed that a plurality of voters in Missouri—48%—support Amendment 3, which would legalize adult-use cannabis in the Show Me State and establish a regulated recreational weed market there.

The poll found that 35% of voters in the state are opposed to Amendment 3, with another 17% who said they are unsure.

That survey was no doubt more encouraging to supporters of the amendment than another poll from Remington Research Group. According to the Missouri Independent, this survey showed that “only 43% of respondents [are] in support of Amendment 3, compared to 47% against and 10% unsure.”

Another poll painted a very different poll from those two. A poll last month from SurveyUSA found a huge majority of 62% in Missouri support Amendment 3, compared with 22% who said they were opposed and 16% who said they remain undecided.

All three of those polls were conducted in September.

Despite the nebulous outlook, Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind the amendment, remains confident that it will pass next month.

“Support for Amendment 3 continues to grow every day because legalizing marijuana allows law enforcement to focus on fighting violent and serious crime, while bringing tens of millions of revenue to the state annually,” Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager John Payne told the Missouri Independent.

Just ensuring that Amendment 3 made it to the ballot was itself a triumph for Legal Missouri.

The group submitted nearly 400,000 signatures to the Missouri secretary of state in May, but by mid-summer, there were reports that organizers may have still fallen short.

In order for such a measure to qualify for the Missouri ballot, organizers were required to collect signatures from at least 8% of registered voters in six of the state’s eight congressional districts.

A local television station reported in July that the signature count in four of the districts appeared to be extremely tight.

“I can’t say without any certainty whether it will make it or not. It is in no way certain that they will fail. This isn’t dead,” Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said at the time.

Ashcroft was right to urge caution. A month later, in August, Ashcroft’s office said that organizers had met the signature requirement and that the amendment qualified for the ballot.

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” Payne said in a statement at the time. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

If it were to pass, Amendment 3 would allow “Missourians with nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to automatically expunge their criminal records,” while levying a 6% state tax on marijuana retail sales. It would also allow “local governments to assess local sales taxes of up to 3%.”

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New Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Cannabis Banking Legislation

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. voters support legislation to allow the banking industry to provide financial services to legal cannabis businesses, according to the results of a recent poll. The survey commissioned by the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) also found that a strong majority believe that allowing cannabis companies to access financial services would reduce the risk of robbery and other crimes at marijuana businesses.

The survey, which was conducted by the polling firm Morning Consult on behalf of the ICBA, found that 65% of U.S. voters support allowing cannabis businesses to access banking services in states that have legalized marijuana. The ICBA said the results of the poll indicate broad bipartisan support for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, a federal bill that would allow such access to financial services for cannabis companies. The legislation has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives seven times but has failed to gain the approval of the Senate.

“U.S. voters have made clear that current law inhibiting access to the banking system for cannabis-related businesses has a negative impact on local communities,” ICBA president and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said in a statement from the industry group. “With a supermajority of U.S. voters voicing support for allowing cannabis-related businesses access to the banking system, the Senate should act now on bipartisan cannabis banking legislation that the House has passed seven times.”

The SAFE Banking Act would permit banks and other financial institutions to provide traditional business banking services to the legal cannabis industry. Under current regulations, providing such banking services including loans and payroll, checking and deposit accounts is tightly regulated by the federal government, resulting in few financial institutions agreeing to work with marijuana businesses. Critics note that the current policy forces cannabis companies to operate primarily in cash, leaving businesses vulnerable to robbery and other crime.

The SAFE Banking Act was first introduced in Congress in 2013 by Democratic Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado. Since then, the House of Representatives has passed the bill seven times as either a standalone bill or attached to other legislation, most recently as an add-on to a China competition bill that was later dropped from the legislation. Each time the cannabis banking bill or its provisions have been approved by the House, however, the legislation has failed to gain the approval of the Senate.

Voters Believe Cannabis Banking Bill Will Reduce Crime Risk

The ICBA poll also found that 71% of voters believe that allowing legal marijuana companies to access the banking system would help reduce the risk of robbery and assault at cannabis-related businesses, which the industry group said is an indication of the importance of cannabis banking access to public safety. A majority (55%) said that with some cannabis-related businesses owned and led by people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community, providing financial services to the weed companies could help foster equity in the cannabis industry.

Sahar Ayinehsazian, a partner in the cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg’s Los Angeles office and the co-chair of the practice’s Banking and Financial Services Access Group, agreed that public support for cannabis banking legislation suggests the issue is an important public safety issue for the electorate.

“It’s encouraging to see that 71% of voters support giving banking access to cannabis businesses – this is not only a business issue, but also a serious public safety matter. We are approaching a decade since the passage of Amendment 64, which ushered in the current model of the national cannabis industry,” Ayinehsazian wrote in an email to High Times. “During this decade, cannabis businesses have proven themselves to be beacons of compliance and safe and material cornerstones of their communities and economies.”

“Continuing to provide hurdles to banking access is, therefore, a harm to the community at large,” she added. “Such broad bipartisan public support is reflective of the positive impacts the cannabis industry has had nationally and should motivate the Senate to get cannabis banking done.”

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Poll: South Dakota Legalization Initiative in Danger of Failing

A marijuana legalization initiative in South Dakota is in serious danger of going up in smoke this November, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by the pollster Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy on behalf of the local news nonprofit South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota, found that a majority of Mount Rushmore State voters are opposed to the legalization of recreational cannabis. 

A little more than 54% of voters said they are against legalization, while just under 44% said they are in favor.

The polling data represents a potential source of concern for legalization activists in South Dakota, who have expressed confidence that the state’s voters will do what they did in 2020 and approve a recreational cannabis proposal at the ballot.

In 2020, 54 percent of South Dakota voters approved Amendment A, which would have legalized recreational cannabis in the state and laid the groundwork for a regulated weed industry.

But the amendment was subject to a legal challenge, led by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, and was ultimately struck down by the state Supreme Court last November.

Organizers quickly went back in the field, ultimately getting a new legalization proposal on this year’s ballot

The new proposal, Initiated Measure 27, legalized possession of cannabis for adults in the state, but defers to the legislature on many of the regulatory details.

Matthew Schweich, the campaign director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said in May that the group collected more than 8,000 signatures above the qualification threshold to ensure that it would qualify.

“One of the main reasons why we maintained such ambitious goals for our signature drive was to ensure that we had a healthy margin, so we could deter our opponents from filing a lawsuit,” Schweich told the Argus Leader at the time. “This was the plan to have this buffer and be sure there would be no more lawsuits over cannabis initiatives in South Dakota.”

Following the release of the new poll last week, Schweich said he was confused more than anything.

“When I look a little deeper, I found things that do not make sense to me,” Schweich told local news station KELO. “Some of the numbers don’t really make sense and conflict strongly with previous data that we’ve seen.”

KELO reported that “Schweich pointed out that certain elements within the News Watch/USD poll do not jibe with past indicators of support for legalization in South Dakota.”

“I see this as a flawed poll, but one that I still need to keep in the back of my head as motivation to keep working hard,” Schweich told KELO. “I’m not going to dismiss this poll entirely, and it’s a reminder that we have to work really hard and not take anything for granted because in recent times, it’s gotten harder and harder to predict what an electorate will look like.”

A poll late last year found that a slim majority of South Dakota voters disapproved of Noem’s handling of cannabis legalization, while only 39% said they approved.

During a campaign stop earlier this month, Noem said that she will implement the new cannabis law if a majority of voters approve Initiated Measure 27 in November.

“From what I’ve seen, this amendment this year that will be on the ballot is written more appropriately towards the Constitution,” Noem said, as quoted by the Argus Leader.

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People With First-Hand Experience More Likely to Perceive Pot Positively

Ever heard the old adage, “don’t knock it ‘til you try it’? Gallup’s latest polling data seems to support that concept, showing that 70% of American adults—the ones who have actually tried it—think its effects on users are positive.

These results were collected July 5-26 from Gallup’s Consumption survey, conducted annually during the month of July.

A large majority, or 70% of Americans who have ever tried cannabis think pot’s effects on users are “very” or “somewhat positive,” and 66% think pot’s effect on society is “very” or “somewhat positive.”

But on the other hand, a similarly large majority of people who have never tried cannabis think its effects are negative, with 72% saying its effect on society is “very” or “somewhat negative” and 62% saying its effects on users are “very” or “somewhat negative.”

In other words, one might assume that some people dislike cannabis until they try it for themselves, or see the miraculous healing powers of the plant first-hand, with their own two eyes.

“This survey data indicates that personal experience with cannabis is a relatively surefire cure for ‘reefer madness,’” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “As greater percentages of adults continue to become familiar with marijuana for either therapeutic purposes or for their own personal use, expect to see many of the more sensational yet specious claims that once dominated the cannabis narrative be regulated to the dustbin of history.”

While about half of Americans have tried pot at some point—48%—just 16% say they are currently smoking it.

America’s Overall View

Americans are split down the middle over pot’s effect on society with 49% considering it positive and 50% considering it negative. Slightly more support for pot’s effect on users was found, with 53% saying it’s positive and 45% negative.

Armentano is “not particularly” surprised American adults remain divided about their views on cannabis.

“We’ve known for some time that there is a percentage of Americans who believe that marijuana ought to be legalized and regulated,” Armentano tells High Times. “Because criminalizing it is a policy that has not worked, and that comes with very high costs. And I think that is reflected in the fact that Gallup finds a supermajority of Americans think marijuana ought to be legal, yet, America’s fairly evenly divided on whether or not marijuana use per se is beneficial. You have a percentage of the public that may not necessarily like cannabis, but they dislike prohibiting cannabis even more.”

Americans, however, appear to recognize the harms of alcohol and see cannabis far more positively than they do alcohol. An earlier Gallup released last month shows that three in four adults in America believe alcohol negatively affects society, and 71% said they believe it is harmful to drinkers.

When Gallup began surveying Americans about cannabis in 1969—only 4% said they thought it should be legal. Through the decades that number has climbed slowly but steadily to reflect the rapidly changing attitudes in the country. According to Gallup’s most recent survey, 68% of U.S. adults, tied for the record high, think pot should be legal.

Witnessing the Benefits of Cannabis

The second-best thing to first-hand experience is the power of social media and how it’s showing the world that cannabis has fewer harms than alcohol and most of all, that it can help heal.

These types of videos might help convert opponents of cannabis reform or the undecided.

An example of this would be viral videos on social media showing the healing powers of THC or CBD. Facebook user Pete Starostecki was a cross-state cannabis refugee, and posted a viral video of CBD oil stopping seizures in real time with his son. Professional British Boxer Anthony Fowler, for instance, posted a video of a dog having a seizure and how fast CBD oil stopped the dog from shaking.

The further influence of cannabis in the media helps to normalize hard-working, functional Americans who choose to consume cannabis responsibly, as evident in the rising numbers in successive Gallup polls.

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