- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2018

A majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana and are against the government enforcing federal laws against pot in states that permit it, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Seventy percent of voters are opposed to the government interfering in states with legal weed laws on the books, and 58 percent of voters said the plant should be federally legalized, the pollster said Thursday.

“Every party, gender, education, age and racial group supports legalization of marijuana except Republicans, who are opposed 62-33 percent, and voters over 65 years old, who are opposed 50-41 percent. Hispanic voters are divided 48-48 percent,” Quinnipiac said.

“The demographics say pot is here to stay, either for fun or to provide medical comfort,” said Tim Malloy, the pollster’s assistant director. “And the message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Hands off.”

Quinnipiac based its findings on a nationwide survey of 1,106 voters conducted after the Trump administration recently rescinded Obama-era policies that advised the federal government against prosecuting marijuana cases in states that have legalized the plant, casting a cloud over the future of existing medical and recreational laws across the country.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but most states have legalized the plant for either recreational or medicinal purposes. The Obama administration had discouraged the Department of Justice from prosecuting federal marijuana laws in legal weed states, but Mr. Sessions rolled back those policies earlier this month.

“Given the Department’s well-established general principles, previous nationwide guidance specific to marijuana enforcement is unnecessary and is rescinded, effective immediately,” Mr. Sessions said in a one-page memo issued to federal prosecutors Jan. 4.

President Trump said on the campaign trial that he believed marijuana legalization “should be a state issue, state-by-state.”

“The president’s position hasn’t changed, but he does strongly believe that we have to enforce federal law,” White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last week.

The results of Quinnipiac’s latest survey echo a Gallup poll from October that found that 64 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana — the highest percentage of support ever recorded since Gallup began asking respondents about pot decades earlier.

Unlike Quinnipiac’s polling, Gallup’s survey suggested that 51 percent of Republicans favor legalizing pot.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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