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Nina Zdinjak

New Poll: Majority Of U.S. Voters Support Federal Marijuana Legalization, But Do Politicians Care?

A majority of U.S. voters support federal marijuana legalization, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey shows.

The poll, conducted from Sep. 30 to Oct. 2, 2022, asked a representative sample of 2,005 registered voters if they would like to see cannabis legalized on the federal level. The results were as expected and in line with other surveys conducted over the last several years.

Key Highlights 

  • Three in five voters (or 60%) agree recreational cannabis use should be legal versus 27% against it. The remaining 13% are undecided. 

  • Federal cannabis reform is supported by 71% of Democrats, 61% of independents and some 47% of Republicans. It is important to note that, at the same time 41% of Republicans are against it, compared to only 16% of Democrats and 24% of independents. 

  • As many as 72% of Black and 67% of Hispanic voters favor legalizing weed, compared to 58% of white voters

  • The most support (71%) for legalization comes in the age group of 35-44, followed by the 18-34 group with 69%. 

One of the most recent cannabis-related surveys by Rasmussen Reports revealed that the majority of Americans don’t think cannabis is dangerous

While the Rasmussen Reports poll focused mostly on people's perception of marijuana, another from an April YouGov survey looked at how many Americans would like to see cannabis legal. The results revealed that 60% said yes and 27% said no. 

All this data confirms the results of a 2021 Gallup poll, which showed as high as 68% support for cannabis legalization.

How Close Is Federal Reform?

In July, long-awaited U.S. Senate legislation that would decriminalize and deschedule cannabis on the federal level and promote social equity was unveiled. Known as the Cannabis Administration And Opportunity Act (CAOA), by Senators Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden and Cory Booker, the bill proposes comprehensive marijuana reform. 

Since then, however, CAOA has come under criticism. It's too complex, critics say, and many cannabis industry experts such as Cantor Fitzgerald’s Pablo Zuanic and Emily Paxhia, co-founder of cannabis investment fund Poseidon Asset Management agree that chances of the bill passing the Senate are slim.

“There is too much packed into CAOA for this to get through," Paxhia recently told Benzinga. "This was a Hail Mary bill put forth by Schumer and the supporting democrats."

In the meantime, Sen. Wyden noted how challenging it will be to get CAOA passed the Senate. 

“A 50-50 majority in the Senate will make passing our bill a difficult feat, but I hope we can, at minimum, pass some key reforms this Congress,” Wyden told The American Prospect.

Biden Still Not There

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden repeatedly said he wanted to see marijuana decriminalization as well as automatic expungement of prior cannabis convictions. After nearly two years in the Oval Office, the President has granted clemency to dozens of individuals with non-violent federal drug convictions and commuted the sentences of 75 people who were serving time at home because of the pandemic. He also issued three pardons.

The Biden Administration has been avoiding meaningful steps while dodging questions on marijuana decriminalization for months. It seems likely he'll continue to remain silent on the issue, at least until after the midterms.

There’s Still Hope For One Bill

Fortunately, though, many experts believe that at least one piece of legislation has the potential to pass the Senate. Sponsors of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), recently discussed the urgency of cannabis reform this session, reiterating the public safety imperative of providing the industry access to the traditional financial system.

The banking reform bill, which the House passed for the sixth time in July as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, has never been voted on in the Senate.

Cantor's Zuanic recently met with lawmakers in the nation's capital and said congressional leaders are ready to pass banking legislation for the cannabis industry in the upcoming elections.

He noted that the passage of "SAFE Plus" is likely during the Congressional lame-duck period between the November midterms and the swearing-in of the new Congress in January 2023.

The ‘SAFE Banking Plus’ Act is an updated version of a bill that contains provisions to protect financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses. It also contains some equity components. 

“We think that talk of a SAFE Plus (bill) is something that should be taken seriously,” Zuanic told investors in a Zoom call. “It’s not just a jingle. It’s not a pipe dream. It’s something that’s ongoing. There are discussions at high levels in the Senate between co-sponsors of the SAFE Banking bill on the Republican side with Senate leadership.”

Photo: Benzinga Edit from Kindel Media and Paula Nardini by Pexels

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