The war on drugs has been going on for decades, and it doesn’t seem to be gaining any ground. Huge swaths of the prison population are there for non-violent drug offenses, and all of these arrests are not reducing the popularity of marijuana. Legalization efforts have shown that the doomsayers claims that legalizing the substance will lead to more crime are largely just blowing smoke, as well. Legal marijuana, an experiment more and more of the United States seems to be getting on-board with, has led to economic booms, huge tax revenues, and it allows police to re-focus their efforts on more serious crimes.
That doesn’t mean everyone in the U.S. wants to see marijuana laws loosened. There are still a great deal of people (several of them in positions of power) who want to see marijuana laws stay the way they are on the books.
According to a recent survey, though, cops tend to be more in favor of change than they are against it.
Survey Reveals Most Cops Want Looser Marijuana Laws
According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, which included over 8,000 police officers, found that 2/3 of them believed marijuana should be legal for personal or medical use. The survey, which is the largest of its kind to date, had 32 percent of officers say that marijuana should be legal for both medical and personal use, while 37 percent said it should be legal for medical use only. Roughly 30 percent of officers believe that marijuana should remain illegal.
What makes this survey unique is that, pound for pound, police officers tend to be more conservative than the public they serve. It comes with the territory, after all, that those charged with enforcing the law tend to resist changes to it. However, the fact that so many officers, who deal with the realities of marijuana enforcement on a daily basis, believe the laws should be changed is telling.
Where Did This Change Come From?
Police officers didn’t wake up overnight and decide, as a group, that marijuana enforcement wasn’t working. Their opinions, just like the general public’s, are informed by a huge number of factors. Generational changes in attitude, for example, are the reason cited for many younger officers feeling that marijuana should be legalized. With that said, other reasons like scientific research into the effects of marijuana, as well as the actual effectiveness of the current laws we have in place, may also play a part.
In fact, when you consider the outdated and un-scientific materials police are trained with, it becomes even more surprising that attitudes are shifting toward legalization instead of away from it. According to Adam Ruins Everything, the myth of the gateway drug is alive and well, for example.
There is another factor that’s been playing into the issue, as well, though there’s no way of telling if it influenced the survey. As the marijuana legalization movement has grown, and its message has been heard by more people, the history of marijuana restriction has been dragged into the light. For example, hearings where scientists in the 1940s disproved the myths of marijuana’s dangers have been highlighted as part of the public debate. Additionally, statements made by Nixon aide John Ehrlichman, have made it clear that the ramping up of the war on drugs into its modern form had nothing to do with marijuana’s actual dangers to the public. It was used as a way to criminalize an activity favored by those who protested the Vietnam War, and against those active in the civil rights movement.
Marijuana prohibition has, largely, been political. And, as we’re currently seeing, even those we task with carrying out the prohibition are starting to disagree with those politics.