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Youngest Voters Evenly Split on Question of Marijuana Legalization

4:04 PM, Apr 29, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Over at the Washington Examiner, Philip Klein points out two interesting results from a new Harvard Institute of Politics poll of 18- to 29-year-old voters: 

I would have expected that that the younger, college-age cohort would be more likely to be pro-legalization. Yet according to the poll’s findings, while older millennials (ages 25 to 29) support legalization by an overwhelming 22-point margin, younger millennials (ages 18 to 24) were quite torn on the issue, with 38 percent supporting legalization, 39 percent opposing it, and 22 percent unsure.

Another interesting finding came on race. Statistics showing blacks are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession are regularly cited by both critics of the drug war and by those highlighting racial bias in the American criminal justice system. Interestingly, however, while white millennials backed legalization by a 17-point margin, African Americans were divided, with 38 percent supporting the idea and 36 percent opposing it.

In a recent WEEKLY STANDARD article, John Walters wrote that the statistics on marijuana and race are often misunderstood or misrepresented:

No one gets “locked up for smoking pot”—federal mandatory minimums don’t even kick in below 220 pounds, and only 9 percent of federal marijuana convictions involve African Americans. No part of law enforcement in America targets pot-smoking kids or simple users of any age. No one is being frisked on the streets for the purpose of finding marijuana users. 

There are two major causes of drug possession charges in our criminal justice system. The first is trafficking, which may well be pled down to a lesser charge. The second is the commission of violent or property crime, when the individual at the time of apprehension and arrest for that crime is found to have drugs in their possession. In a significant portion of these cases, the offender may be charged with the lesser drug possession rather than the more serious underlying crime. If such possession laws were repealed, the probable effect would actually be longer sentences based on charges for the original offense.

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