A national poll conducted in February 2017 by Quinnipiac University finds 59 percent of adults surveyed favored the legalization of marijuana use in the United States. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)

Poll: Majority of Americans support legalization, want feds to step off

Quinnipiac poll: 93 percent in favor of medical marijuana; 71 percent would oppose a federal crackdown on legal marijuana

Americans are increasingly in favor of legalizing some form of marijuana — especially medical — and a majority across the board think the federal government should leave legal states alone.

A new Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found 71 percent of Americans would oppose a federal crackdown on legal marijuana, and 93 percent are in favor of medical marijuana, according to the survey of 1,323 voters nationwide.

This is the first time the enforcement action question was posed as part of the Quinnipiac polls, which in the past have surveyed Americans about their support or opposition of issues such as marijuana use, legalization and decriminalization, said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Questions abound about potential enforcement of federal marijuana law following the election of Donald Trump as president and the subsequent appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, as the nation’s attorney general.

When broken out by political affiliation, gender, education, race and age, the majority of the respective groups surveyed opposed such an action, according to the poll. The survey was conducted Feb. 16-21 via landline and cellphone interviews, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Public support for marijuana legalization has grown since the November election, in which a historic number of states approved medical or recreational legalization measures. A June 2016 Quinnipiac poll showed that 54 percent of adults surveyed favored the legalization of marijuana use in the United States and 89 percent supported allowing adults to legally use medical marijuana if their doctor prescribes it.

Flash-forward to now: 59 percent of adults surveyed favored the legalization of marijuana use in the United States, and 93 percent supported allowing adults to legally use medical marijuana if their doctor prescribes it, according to Thursday’s poll.

The latest poll results show the public has grown to accept marijuana, use and they believe there are other more pressing issues that should garner concern, Malloy said.

“(Marijuana’s) acceptance is growing yearly, monthly,” he said. “There’s never been a downturn.”

Medical marijuana’s support base shown by the recent poll is a “profound stamp of approval,” Malloy said.

“And with a president who is more conservative on the issue than previous presidents, when it’s 71-23 on federal enforcement, that’s a pretty strong statement, too,” he said.

Whether the federal approach will align with public opinion, however, is a different matter.

Later on Thursday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer addressed the topic of marijuana, stating that he thinks there will be “greater enforcement” of recreational marijuana states. He put medical marijuana in a more favorable light, saying the “president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana can bring to them.”