Up to 97% of Congress Is in Denial on Marijuana Legalization

A clear majority of Americans favor the legalization of weed. How long before the government catches up?

the legalization of weed - marijuana should be legal HR 499

With full legal approval from the state of Washington, Russell Diercks smokes marijuana inside Frankie Sports Bar and Grill in Olympia on December 9, 2012. HR 499 would pave the way for the legalization of weed, allowing states to decide on their own if marijuana should be legal. (Photo: Nick Adams/Reuters)

Matt Fleischer was awarded a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant for his series “Dangerous Jails.”

Americans don’t agree on much these days. Almost half (46 percent) of the country won’t even sign off on the theory of evolution.

But a poll released by Pew last week reveals that, for the first time ever, a majority of Americans support the legalization of weed. According to the findings, 52 percent of Americans, to be exact, believe marijuana should be legal, while only 45 percent oppose it. That’s an 11-point swing since 2010.

With millions of people facing prison time or legal quagmires and billions of dollars spent enforcing marijuana laws, Americans finally seem to be coming to a logical conclusion regarding their country’s out-of-control Drug War and the legalization of weed.

“There will always be some people who are less evolved in their thinking about marijuana and want to hold on to the past,” Mason Tvert, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, tells TakePart, “but [this poll shows that] most Americans are ready to move forward and adopt a more sensible, evidence-based approach.” 

One major question remains: Is the Federal government ready for a change?

Some law of percentages might dictate that any politician who would ignore an issue commanding the support of the majority of Americans would do so at the peril of being voted out of office.

Some law of percentages might dictate that any politician who would ignore an issue commanding the support of the majority of Americans would do so at the peril of being voted out of office.

Yet, according to a recent FBI report, law enforcement officials in America make a marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds. That’s 750,000 people per year caught up in the Drug War net on marijuana alone. In its first four years in office, the Obama administration authorized more raids on medical marijuana dispensaries that the George W. Bush administration oversaw in both terms in office.

After both Colorado and Washington voters elected to legalize marijuana possession and distribution in their respective states in 2012, President Obama promised that federal law enforcement had “bigger fish to fry” than to challenge marijuana distributers operating under the new state statues.

Months later, however, the White House has still fallen short of clarifying its position on the legalization of weed. A White House spokesperson recently told Talking Points Memo that “[we are still] in the process of reviewing those initiatives.”

Nonetheless, advocates who believe marijuana should be legal are certain that public pressure will eventually prove too much for the federal government to withstand.

“Marijuana prohibition is on its last legs,” says Tvert. “The degree to which it has failed is simply too obvious to ignore.”

The Pew poll should help provide advocates like Tvert with the political ammunition they need to earn the support for factually sensible drug policies.

A bill currently floating in the U.S. House of Representatives, HR 499, would end the federal prohibition of marijuana and allow the states to make their own marijuana laws, taxing and regulating the drug as they would alcohol. HR 499 has bipartisan support—it was introduced by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado and is cosponsored by Republican Rep. Dana Rohrbacher of California.

Unlike the more than half of Americans who support the legalization of weed, only 13 of the 435 House members—less than 3 percent—have signed on to HR 499.

What do you think about the legalization of weed? Would you urge your representative to support HR 499? Chat it out in COMMENTS.

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