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Seven in Ten Americans Support Expunging Past Cannabis Convictions, Poll Finds

Most americans support expungement cannabis convictions

A supermajority of Americans support expungement of marijuana-related criminal records, according to a new YouGov survey.

The pollsters asked 7,141 adults if they “support or oppose expunging marijuana-related convictions for non-violent offenders?”

Seven in ten of respondents favor the move, while 46 percent said they strongly support doing so. This majority support was found across all demographics accounted for in the survey, including political party affiliation, US regions, age, income and gender.

Democrats’ support of expungement stood at 81 percent, while 69 percent of Independents and 57 percent of Republicans also favor clearing nonviolent cannabis offenses.

Regional support for the measure is lowest in the South but still stands at 69 percent, with the Midwest and Northeast each reporting the strongest support at 72 percent.

YouGov’s findings regarding support for cannabis-related expungements closely mirrors national support for broader marijuana legalization, as reported recently by Gallup. It found support for legalizing cannabis is at an all-time high, with 68 percent of respondents in favor of ending federal prohibition.

The new polling also closely follows voters in five states approving recreational and medical marijuana legalization ballot measures at the November elections, including in typically red-leaning states like South Dakota, Mississippi and Montana.

In spite of this unprecedented support for cannabis legalization, especially among Democrats, president-elect Joe Biden remains opposed to the measure and instead supports incremental reforms such as decriminalization and expungements of marijuana-related criminal records. As part of a campaign pledge, Biden said he would make federal funds available to help states seal records of nonviolent cannabis convictions. He also said he would encourage greater use of drug courts instead of criminal courts for marijuana offenders. However, now that the US House of Representatives voted to remove cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act – under a bill co-sponsored in the Senate by vice president-elect Kamala Harris – Biden may have little option but to go much further than piecemeal reforms. This will likely depend on which party controls the Senate after the runoff elections in Georgia for the two remaining seats. If the Democrats win those, it will take control of the Senate, while the Republicans only need one more seat to secure a majority.

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