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Poll: 67% Say Provide Treatment for Heroin, Not Prosecution

(Chicago) – Poll: A new poll says Americans, including Republicans, want government to focus on drug treatment for heroin and other drugs.

A national survey by the Pew Research Center finds that 67% of Americans say that the government should focus more on providing treatment for those who use illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Just 26% think the government’s focus should be on prosecuting users of such hard drugs.

Support for a treatment-based approach to illegal drug use spans nearly all demographic groups. And while Republicans are less supportive of the treatment option than are Democrats or independents, about half of Republicans (51%) say the government should focus more on treatment than prosecution in dealing with illegal drug users.

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As a growing number of states ease penalties for drug possession, the public expresses increasingly positive views of the move away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug crimes. By nearly two-to-one (63% to 32%), more say it is a good thing than a bad thing that some states have moved away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders. In 2001, Americans were evenly divided over the move by some states to abandon mandatory drug terms.

The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Feb. 14-23 among 1,821 adults, finds that support for the legalization of marijuana use continues to increase. And fully 75% of the public –including majorities of those who favor and oppose the legal use of marijuana – think that the sale and use of marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide.

By wide margins, the public views marijuana as less harmful than alcohol, both to personal health and to society more generally. Moreover, just as most Americans prefer a less punitive approach to the use of drugs such as heroin and cocaine, an even larger majority (76% of the public) – including 69% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats – think that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve time in jail.

More and more states are acting to revise drug laws: Between 2009 and 2013, 40 states took some action to ease their drug laws according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data provided by the National Conference on State Legislatures and the Vera Institute.

The public remains concerned over the problem of drug abuse – both nationally and locally. In fact, a large majority says that drug abuse across the country is either a crisis (32%) or a serious problem (55%). Half regard the problem of drug abuse in their neighborhoods, including its schools, that seriously. These views have not changed much since the mid-1990s.

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