70% in U.S. Support Expunging Marijuana Convictions After Vote to Decriminalize Weed: Poll

As momentum for the pro-cannabis movement continues to grow, a new poll found an overwhelming majority of Americans support wiping the slate clean for those with past drug arrests.

A YouGov survey of more than 7,100 U.S. adults found 70 percent of Americans support expunging marijuana-related convictions for nonviolent offenders. Forty-six percent of respondents said they strongly supported such a measure, while 24 percent said they somewhat support it.

Just 17 percent of those surveyed somewhat or strongly opposed the idea. Thirteen percent of respondents said they didn't know their position on the issue.

The findings come days after a historic vote in the House of Representatives to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. It was the first time either chamber of Congress voted on the issue.

The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was passed in a 228-to-164 vote on December 4. Along with legalizing the drug at the federal level, the legislation would expunge prior marijuana convictions; impose a federal tax on marijuana sales; provide funding for small marijuana businesses; and allocate revenue to communities most affected by previous drug enforcement laws.

President-elect Joe Biden has expressed support for decriminalizing marijuana and expunging past convictions, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is a lead sponsor of the MORE Act in the Senate.

But the legislation isn't likely to make it far in the Republican-controlled upper chamber, despite momentum for drug reform at the state level. GOP leaders such as Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy criticized Democrats for taking the vote as negotiations over a second coronavirus relief package remain deadlocked.

The popularity for legalizing marijuana was on full display during the 2020 general election as voters in five states—Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota—approved ballot measures decriminalizing the drug for medicinal and recreational use.

DCJM activist rally for cannabis reform 2019
Activists from the DC Marijuana Justice hold a rally to demand Congress to pass cannabis reform legislation on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol on October 8, 2019. A new poll from YouGov found 70 percent of Americans support expunging marijuana-related convictions for nonviolent offenders. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

As a result, marijuana is now legal for adults in 15 states and Washington, D.C. Medical marijuana is legal in 35 states. Plus, nationwide public support for marijuana reached an all-time high this year. A Gallup Poll released last month found that 68 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing cannabis.

Going even further, Oregon voted in the November 3 election to decriminalize all drugs and to expand access to treatment for addiction and health services for drug users. The measure includes the removal of criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of illegal substances. Cannabis for medical and recreational use had already been made legal in the state.

Support for expunging marijuana-related convictions for nonviolent offenders was higher among Democrats than Republicans, the YouGov survey found. Roughly 60 percent of Democrats expressed strong support for the measure compared to 26 percent of Republicans.