Seven out of ten Americans want the federal government to uphold President Trump’s campaign pledges to let states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference, a new poll finds.
Just 23 percent of U.S voters support “the government enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized medical or recreational marijuana” in a survey released Thursday by Quinnipiac University. Seventy-one percent would oppose such a move.
The poll also found that support for outright legalization has risen sharply since the last time the poll was conducted. Whereas 54 percent of voters supported ending prohibition in the university’s June 2016 survey, 59 percent are on board now. Barely a third — 36 percent — of Americans now oppose legalizing cannabis.
When it comes to allowing patients to use medical marijuana, the gap is even starker: 93 percent are in support and only six percent are against it. Americans’ backing of medical cannabis is up four points since last June.
The last time Quinnipiac asked Americans about marijuana, only four states had ended prohibition. On Election Day in November, that number doubled to eight, and three more states enacted comprehensive medical cannabis laws, bringing the total to 28.
At a campaign rally, Donald Trump said, “I really believe you should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation… In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state by state.”
Similarly, in an interview, he said, “I think it’s up to the states. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
But following the election he named Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an ardent legalization opponent, as attorney general, sparking fear and uncertainty about what the administration’s cannabis policy would be.
During the confirmation process, Sessions, who previously said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” was much more guarded about his views on how the Department of Justice should react to state laws.
During a hearing, he called the Obama administration’s guidelines that lay out how states can avoid federal interference “valuable.” But he indicated that he thought they should be enforced more thoroughly.
While the Obama-era “Cole Memo” on marijuana enforcement remains on the Justice Department website for now, advocates have feared that it could disappear at any moment.
The new Quinnipiac survey provides more ammunition to the argument that a seemingly poll-obsessed president will direct federal law enforcement to uphold his campaign pledges instead of move against broadly popular state marijuana laws.
Whereas the poll shows partisan divide on the question of legalization — with 72 percent of Democrats in favor compared to just 35 percent of Republicans — a clear majority in every demographic opposes federal interference with state cannabis laws.
In the survey, letting states set their own marijuana laws is significantly more popular with voters than are other key Trump agenda items, such as:
Repealing the Affordable Care Act (43 percent support)
Lowering taxes on businesses and corporations (43 percent)
Restarting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines (38 percent)
Building a Wall on the Mexican border (37 percent)
Lowering taxes on the wealthy (18 percent)
This post was originally published on February 23, 2017, it was updated on March 24, 2017.