Americans Overwhelmingly Prefer Treatment to Prosecution for Illegal Drug Users; Alcohol Viewed as more Harmful than Marijuana

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Americans Overwhelmingly Prefer Treatment to Prosecution for Illegal Drug Users; Alcohol Viewed as more Harmful than Marijuana


The United States is becoming a kinder, gentler nation when it comes to drug abuse, with more people these days preferring to help users instead of punishing them, according to a new study.


The same study also shows that Americans don’t fear marijuana and its effects on individuals or society like they do with alcohol and its consequences.


Sixty-seven percent of respondents to a national survey by the Pew Research Center said the government should focus less on prosecuting people who use illegal drugs (such as cocaine and heroin) and focus more on getting them into treatment.


Only a quarter of Americans still hold the belief that prison time is the best thing for abusers of hard drugs.


When it comes to possession of small amounts of marijuana, 76% of the public believe jail time should not be imposed.


Support for treatment over punishment is strong among most demographic groups, Pew researchers reported. But perhaps the most startling development is that just over half of Republicans—who have historically preferred the lock-’em-up approach—now favor drug treatment over punishment.


Given this softer attitude toward drug users, it is not surprising that Americans, by a wide margin, also support the growing movement at the state level for reforming drug sentencing laws for non-violent offenders. The survey showed that 63% said moving away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes was a positive step, not a negative one. Fewer than half of Americans felt this way back in 2001.


Pew researchers also discovered that Americans consider alcohol more dangerous than marijuana. When asked which is more harmful to a person’s health, 69% chose alcohol, while only 15% selected marijuana. In terms of impact on society, 63% said alcohol had a more detrimental effect. Only 23% said marijuana had a more negative effect.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

America’s New Drug Policy Landscape (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press)

Section 2: Views of Marijuana – Legalization, Decriminalization, Concerns (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press)

No Connection between Medical Marijuana and Increase in Crime (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Benefits of Drug Legalization May Outweigh Increase in Number of Drug Users (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

The Real “Gateway” Drug…Alcohol (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


anonamouse 10 years ago
It's probably only a coincidence but I wonder if the 23% who claim to believe marijuana (to use Anslinger's smear word) is more harmful than alcohol is suspiciously similar to the percentage of people whose livelihoods might be affected by a stand-down in the "war on drugs."
Mims 10 years ago
Interesting how marijuana has "effects on individuals" while alcohol has fearful "consequences."

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