Nearly 70% of Americans are in favor of full cannabis legalization, according to a new poll by the Center for American Progress (CAP). The poll also reports that a similar number of respondents were in favor of clean slate legislation that would automatically seal the records of former cannabis offenders.
As support for cannabis reform grows across the country, legislators in several states and cities have already proposed or enacted laws to allow former marijuana offenders to seal, clear, or expunge their criminal records. Even with these new laws taking shape, there are still millions of Americans with pot convictions on their criminal records that interfere with job, work, housing, and education opportunities.
Between April 25th and May 1st of this year, CAP and GBA Strategies conducted an online poll of 1,000 registered voters throughout the country. The survey presented each respondent with a simple explanation of clean slate legislation, including arguments for and against. A total of 70% of voters said they either "strongly" or "somewhat" supported such legislation, while only 21% said they were opposed. The remaining 9% were undecided.
Those who opposed the concept of clean slate legislation were presented with additional information explaining the benefits of the proposed laws, and then asked whether this new information changed their opinion on the subject. Respondents were told that "sealing a record is not the same as clearing or expunging a record, and an individual whose record is sealed isn't 'getting away' with anything: if they are ever arrested again, law enforcement and the courts have access to their full record."
After reading this, around 30% of opponents said that they would change their mind and support clean slate legislation. Another 29% said they would change their minds after learning that "automatically sealing records of those without another conviction after 10 years will significantly reduce the workload of overburdened courts and save taxpayers money" by limiting the lengthy and expensive appeal processes.
The survey also asked whether respondents "support or oppose the legalization of marijuana." Again, 68% of respondents said yes, the highest level of support for legalization ever seen in a scientific nationwide poll. Even broken down by demographics, the poll found majority support among every race, political party affiliation, and gender. Around 69% of whites, 72% of African Americans, and 64% of Latinos support legalization, as do 77% of Democrats, 62% of Independents, and even 57% of Republicans.
Around 58% of all respondents also said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported clean slate legislation. "The results of this study are clear," John Halpin, senior fellow at CAP, and Karl Agne, founding principal at GBA Strategies, wrote. "Voters understand that clean slate legislation to automatically seal the records of nonviolent offenders offers a fair and humane path for people to re-enter society and an effective means to help reduce the burden on our court system."