Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Communities Rising" to end the drug war rally in front of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2011 (Photo: Bill Hackwell)

"Communities Rising" to end the drug war rally in front of San Francisco City Hall on June 17, 2011 (Photo: Bill Hackwell)

US Public Ready To End 'Devastating' War on Drugs

National poll finds growing numbers favor decriminalization, treatment, and shift away from mandatory minimum sentences

Sarah Lazare

U.S. attitudes towards the War on Drugs appear to be shifting away from prosecutions and incarcerations, towards decriminalization and treatment.

This is according to a Pew Research Center national survey conducted February 14 to 23 among 1,821 adults and released Wednesday. According to the poll's findings, 67 percent of U.S. respondents say the government should prioritize treatment for people who use drugs deemed illegal, including cocaine and heroin. This is compared to 26 percent who think the government should focus on prosecuting drug users.

"There's a lot of hope in the shift in common sense away from the racist, destructive, divisive 'law and order' rhetoric that goes hand-in-hand with devastating effects of police policy, sentencing, and imprisonment that has wreaked havoc on communities for past 30 years at least," said Isaac Ontiveros of prison abolition organization Critical Resistance in an interview with Common Dreams.

According to the survey, 63 percent of respondents say it is a "good thing" that some states have shifted away from mandatory minimum sentences for people with nonviolent drug convictions. Just 32 percent say this shift is a "bad thing." This is a big change from 2001, when the U.S. public was nearly evenly split on the issue.

Mike Riggs of Families Against Mandatory Minimums told Common Dreams, "Pew’s report reflects the fatigue Americans are feeling after decades of indiscriminate tough-on-crime sentencing policies" that he says "have broken up and destabilized countless families and communities."

The poll also reflects growing support for marijuana legalization. Four years ago, 41 percent of respondents said marijuana use should be legal, while in this most recent poll, 54 percent said they favor legalization. Furthermore, three in four respondents said the nation-wide legalization of marijuana is inevitable. And over three quarters of respondents say that if marijuana use is not made legal, those convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve a jail sentence.

According to Ontiveros, the public shifts reflected in this poll have been hard won by the organizing of impacted communities who "have been at the forefront of fighting against the violence of imprisonment and have been organizing to bring loved ones home and provide community-led and based re-entry."

He added, "I'm hopeful these shifts in common sense can translate into continued organizing work and not only create shifts in opinion but shifts in power."

_____________________


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Economists Fear Fed Minutes Show Central Bank Bent on 'Unleashing Mass Unemployment'

Continued interest rate hikes "risk a recession throwing millions out of work," a pair of experts warned.

Jake Johnson ·


Watchdog: Secret Service Didn't Notify Capitol Police of Threat to Pelosi Until After Jan. 6 Attack

"This is deeply disturbing and requires a full investigation," said one legal expert.

Jessica Corbett ·


Advocates Welcome Temporary Block on South Carolina's 6-Week Abortion Ban

"Today's decision is a huge relief for people who desperately need abortion care in South Carolina right now," said one reproductive rights lawyer.

Brett Wilkins ·


Federal Court Strikes Down Ruling That Blocked Biden's Drilling Moratorium

"Today's decision demonstrates how flawed the preliminary injunction issued in June 2021 was, and that Interior must quickly take action to reform the federal fossil fuel program," said one environmental lawyer.

Julia Conley ·


Two Weeks Before Payments Resume, Progressives Tell Biden 'Time to Cancel Student Debt'

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that "we're having conversations daily with the White House and borrowers will know directly and soon from us when a decision is made."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo