In a sign of the continuing shift in attitudes about legal marijuana, a new survey finds that a majority of police officers now favor allowing the use of medical marijuana.
However, the number drops significantly when it comes to the legalization of marijuana for personal use. And one-third of officers surveyed said they still support an outright ban on the use of marijuana for any purpose.
Pew Research released the information recently as part of a survey of police officers on a number of issues.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
For those thinking of investing into marijuana businesses, the survey provides a glimpse into how law enforcement might battle any new legalization efforts. Despite being legal under state laws for a majority of the US population, marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law.
Police officer survey
The survey found that, overall, about seven in 10 officers think marijuana should be legalized for at least medical use. The numbers were as follows:
- 37 percent of police officers supported legalizing marijuana for medical use
- 32 percent of police officers supported legalizing marijuana for both personal and medical use
- 30 percent of police officers support a ban on marijuana for any use
Younger officers took a more favorable view toward marijuana, with 37 percent saying they support both medical and recreational marijuana.
General public survey
While the trend toward supporting legalization among law enforcement officers reflects what has happened with voters across the country, the numbers for law enforcement remain below that for the general public.
In the same study, Pew reported the following numbers on the same questions asked of adults who do not work in law enforcement. The findings:
- 35 percent supported legalizing marijuana for medical use
- 49 percent supported legalizing marijuana for both medical and personal use
- 15 percent supported a ban on marijuana for any use
- 63 percent of those under the age of 45 support legal marijuana for both personal and medical use
Pew conducted the study between May and August 2016. They interviewed 7,900 officers in both police and sheriff’s departments. Each department had at least 100 officers. For the general public portion of the survey, Pew interviewed 4,500 adults in August and September of 2016.
While law enforcement attitudes toward legalizing marijuana seems to have relaxed, the nation’s top justice officials have not changed their stance on marijuana as an illegal drug. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency had two chances to review petitions on the legal status of marijuana in the summer of 2016. However, DEA officials decided not to make any changes.
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