New Polls: Early 2016 Primary State Voters Want Feds to Respect State Marijuana Laws


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Marijuana Majority is excited to release the results of our first commissioned public opinion poll.

As the 2016 presidential campaign gets underway, we thought it would be interesting to see whether voters in the important early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire want the next occupant of the Oval Office to respect state marijuana laws or if they want the next president to send in the DEA to arrest legal growers, sellers and users.

The results were very promising for marijuana law reformers like us. Huge majorities of voters in both states want the federal government to let states legalize marijuana without interference, and support is over 60% in every demographic, including Republicans, 2012 Mitt Romney voters, people older than 65 and those who identify as very conservative. Support is particularly strong among Democrats and independents.

Check out our infographics below to get a sense of just how mainstream support for letting states legalize marijuana is. For more details, see our press release.

And if you want to see more polls like this, please make a donation to support Marijuana Majority’s efforts.

Marijuana Majority Iowa PollMarijuana Majority New Hampshire Poll

To see the full results and demographic breakdowns, see below or click here.

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CONTACT: Tom Angell –

Voters in Early 2016 Primary States Want Feds to Respect State Marijuana Laws

Supermajority Support From Democrats & Republicans in Iowa & New Hampshire

New polling data reveals that voters in early presidential primary states overwhelmingly support ending federal prosecutions of people acting in accordance with state marijuana laws. Among respondents, 71% in Iowa and 73% in New Hampshire agree that “states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference.” Just 13% of Iowans and 15% of New Hampshirites think that “the federal government should arrest and prosecute people who are following state marijuana laws.”

“Politicians running to become our next president should take note of just how uniformly voters in these key states want to end federal marijuana prohibition,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, which commissioned the poll. “Candidates who say they would send in the DEA to shut down legal, taxpaying marijuana businesses are effectively announcing that they’re out of the mainstream and out of touch with the voters they need support from in order to get elected. That type of rhetoric is just not going to score any points in 2016.”

The new data shows that support for letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference is especially high among Democrats and independents in both states, although there is at least 60% support across all demographics, including Republicans, 2012 Mitt Romney voters, people older than 65 and those who identify as very conservative.

See for the full results and demographic breakdowns. Infographics displaying some of the data are also available.

Angell added, “The Obama administration has made some helpful accommodations to allow state marijuana laws to be enacted, but there are still several things this president can do to get the federal government completely out of the way and give these local policies a chance to be fully implemented.”

Under current federal law marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive category (even cocaine and methamphetamine are lower). As a consequence, research on the drug is impeded and state-legal marijuana providers must pay extra taxes that other businesses don’t. And federal employees can be fired for using marijuana even while not at work and in states where it is legal. The administration has the explicit power to reclassify marijuana without further Congressional action. Advocates are also pushing President Obama to use his constitutional power to grant pardons and commutations to people incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses, and to call off ongoing prosecutions of people who were acting in accordance with state marijuana laws.

“Since marijuana reform is so hugely popular with voters, taking these actions before he leaves office would be a serious legacy booster for the president,” Angell said.

Previous polling has demonstrated that there is broad national support for letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference. For example, a Pew survey showed that 59% of Americans do not want the federal government to enforce marijuana laws in states that allow legal use, and CBS News found 58% support for the idea that marijuana laws should be set by states instead of the federal government.

The new surveys, conducted by Public Policy Polling, include 1,500 registered voters in Iowa and 841 voters in New Hampshire. The Iowa poll, conducted August 7-9, has a margin of error of +/-2.5%. The New Hampshire poll, taken August 21-24, has a margin of error of +/-3.4%.

Marijuana Majority is dedicated to helping people understand that marijuana reform is a mainstream, majority-supported issue. More information is available at

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Reaction to U.S. Senate Marijuana Hearing

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today on the federal-state divide over marijuana laws. The following is a statement from Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell:

“It’s about time our federal lawmakers took up this issue. Polls show that the majority of voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana, but far too many elected officials continue to act like this issue is still some dangerous third-rail of politics that’s too dangerous to touch. This is a serious, important and mainstream issue, and it’s good to see politicians finally treating it as such.

“As senators made clear today with important questions about legal marijuana providers’ access to banking, armored car services and tax write-offs that are available to any other business, the Obama administration’s recent memo to prosecutors is a good first step, but it will not remove all of the roadblocks that stand in the way of effective implementation of state marijuana laws. The next step is for Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act to make it clear that America is moving in a new direction when it comes to marijuana policy.

“As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out today, the Obama administration has repeatedly shifted its marijuana policy since 2009, when it released a memo saying that medical marijuana providers operating in ‘clear and unambiguous compliance’ with state law would not be a focus for federal law enforcement. Since that time, though, this president has overseen the closure of more state-legal marijuana businesses in one term than were shuttered during two terms of the Bush administration. It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will follow through this time and finally help the president uphold his campaign pledge to respect state marijuana laws.

“One thing the the president could do right now to signal that he’s serious about this most recently announced shift in policy would be to use his commutation powers to release some of the medical marijuana prisoners that have been put behind bars by his federal agencies.”

Reaction to Federal Marijuana Policy Announcement

Today the U.S. Department of Justice finally announced the Obama administration’s response to the historic marijuana legalization measures that were approved by voters in Colorado and Washington State in November. The following is a statement from Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell:

“It’s nice to hear that the Obama administration doesn’t at this point intend to file a lawsuit to overturn the will of the voters in states that have opted to modernize their marijuana policies, but it remains to be seen how individual U.S. attorneys will interpret the new guidance and whether they will continue their efforts to close down marijuana businesses that are operating in accordance with state law.

“It’s significant that U.S. attorneys will no longer be able to use the size or profitability of a legal marijuana business to determine whether or not it should be a target for prosecution, but the guidelines seem to leave some leeway for the feds to continue making it hard for state-legal marijuana providers to do business.

“The administration’s statement that it doesn’t think busting individual users should be a priority remains meaningless, as it has never been a federal focus to go after people just for using small amounts of marijuana. The real question is whether the president will call off his federal agencies that have been on the attack and finally let legal marijuana businesses operate without harassment, or if he wants the DEA and prosecutors to keep intervening as they have throughout his presidency and thus continue forcing users to buy marijuana on the illegal market where much of the profits go to violent drug cartels and gangs.

“In all, today’s announcement represents a step in a right direction and a recognition by the administration that the politics of marijuana are rapidly shifting in favor of those who support legalization. However, my optimism is tempered by the fact that despite the Justice Department’s 2009 announcement that it shouldn’t be a priority to bust medical marijuana providers operating in accordance with state law, this administration went on to close down more state-legal marijuana businesses in one term than the Bush administration did in two terms.

“Polls from Pew and Gallup show that a supermajority of Americans wants the president to follow through on his 2008 pledges to respect marijuana laws, and that’s what advocates will continue pressing him to do.”


Reaction to Attorney General Eric Holder’s Drug Reform Proposals

Today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder backed proposals to reduce America’s reliance on incarceration. In a speech to the American Bar Association, Holder endorsed Congressional legislation that would scale back mandatory minimum sentences, and sent guidance to U.S. attorneys directing them to refrain from subjecting people accused of low-level drug offenses to the most severe sentences.

The following is a statement from Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell:

“The attorney general’s remarks represent a good first step toward scaling back the failed ‘war on drugs.’ These proposals will allow some people charged with drug offenses to have opportunities to put their lives back together sooner and will save taxpayers some money that is now being wasted putting human beings in cages for no good reason whatsoever. However, the criminal justice system should not just have less of a role in the effort to address the medical problem of drug abuse, it should have no role.

“The real value of these proposals will be in the implementation, which drug policy reform advocates have good reason to be wary about. For example, despite a 2009 Justice Department memo urging U.S. attorneys not to go after marijuana businesses that are legal under state law, more state-legal medical marijuana providers were shuttered by federal actions during the first term of the Obama administration than were closed during George W. Bush’s two terms. And, we’re still waiting for the administration to announce its response to the marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington, a policy that the attorney general has been saying is coming ‘relatively soon’ since December. If the administration is serious about using law enforcement resources in a smarter way, it should be a no-brainer to strongly direct federal prosecutors to respect the majority of voters by allowing these groundbreaking state laws to be implemented without interference.

“Clearly, drug policy reformers have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that the administration’s deeds match its words, but today’s remarks by the attorney general give us a lot to work with.”