Politics Two-Thirds of American Voters Support Decriminalizing All Drugs: Poll
For Black Voters Matter, the goal is greater community power
LaTosha Brown opened with a song. Speaking about voting rights one recent spring day in Selma, Alabama, the Black activist delivered the civil rights anthem “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” in a voice showcasing her background as a jazz singer. She told her audience, through music, that the fight for equal access to the ballot box was as urgent as ever. The song drew cheers from a few dozen listeners, young and old, who had gathered before the brown-bricked African Methodist Episcopal church in a city known for its poverty as much as for its troubled racial past.For Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, the song served to introduce a question.“Close your eyes,” she said.
Two-thirds of American voters now support decriminalizing all drugs, while 83 percent believe that the "war on drugs" has failed, according to a new poll.
A 66 percent majority were in favor of "eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services," according to the poll released Wednesday by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Support for decriminalization differed depending on political affiliation. While 85 percent ofand 72 percent of Independents favored decriminalization, only 40 percent of agreed.
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Politics appeared to make little difference when respondents were asked whether they believed the war on drugs was a failure, with 83 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents and 82 percent of Republicans saying it had failed. Only 12 percent of all respondents believed that it had been a success. Majorities of each group were in favor of ending the so-called war, including 77 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents and 51 percent of Republicans.
An 82 percent majority agreed that Presidentand should "reform the country's drug laws." When queried on specific drug policy reforms, 64 percent were in favor of ending mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes, while another 61 percent supported reducing or commuting the sentences of people currently behind bars for drug crimes.
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An effort in Texas to make it more difficult to vote is the latest attempt by Republicans to complicate ballot access as former President Donald Trump continues to push baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. The legislation proposed by Texas GOP lawmakers would be among the most restrictive in the country. It would put new limits on the hours voting could take place, curtail the use of drop boxes and drive-through voting stations and restrict the ability of election officials to send applications to vote by mail to people who didn’t request one.
The poll was conducted by Bully Pulpit Interactive on behalf of the ACLU and DPA. It surveyed 800 registered voters online and over the phone between May 17-20. The poll was "weighted to be representative of the nation's voters" and notes that, while margins of error do not apply to "non-random samples," a "truly random sample" of 800 would result in a 3.46 percent margin of error.
The poll was released roughly 50 years after the war on drugs began, when former President Richard Nixon called for a "new, all-out offensive" while declaring drug abuse "America's public enemy number one." The ACLU and DPA, both groups that advocate in favor of decriminalization, said that the approach had been ineffective despite eating up billions of dollars in resources, while also resulting in disproportionate harm to people of color. They called on Biden to take immediate action against the "racist war."
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"The Biden administration can make headway in ending this harmful and racist war by commuting the sentences of people incarcerated in federal prison for drugs," Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU'S Justice Division, said in a statement. "Biden does not need congressional approval to act, but doing so will help reduce the problem of mass incarceration and the over-policing of Black and Brown communities in the United States."
"It is no secret the devastation the drug war has caused to our communities, and yet drug possession still remains the most arrested offense in the United States," added DPA Executive Director Kassandra Frederique. "It should come as no surprise that Americans are ready for a drastically different approach, one where drugs are no longer used as an excuse to hold us down."
Newsweek reached out to the Drug Free America Foundation, a group that advocates against decriminalization, and the White House for comment.
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