May 18, 2013
Only six percent of Americans think minor marijuana possession should be punishable by jail time, according to a new Reason-Rupe poll. The poll also found that a strong plurality of Americans think the use or possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be punishable at all.
When asked, “Which approach do you think government and law enforcement should take toward someone found smoking marijuana or in possession of a small amount of marijuana?”, six percent of respondents said possession should be punishable with jail, 20 percent said it should result in mandatory substance abuse counseling, 32 percent said users should incur a fine, and 35 percent of respondents said people caught with small amounts of marijuana should not be punished at all.
The Reason-Rupe poll is one of the few instances—possibly the first—in which the usual polling dichotomies of incarceration v. treatment and criminal penalty v. civil penalty have been expanded to include no penalty whatsoever. The results suggest that Americans are comfortable with the idea of decriminalization—which reduces the penalty for minor marijuana possession to a civil fine—and more sympathetic than ever to the idea of fully legalizing possession.