If the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) recommendation to reschedule cannabis on the federal Controlled Substances Act becomes a reality, it could make an impact on President Joe Biden’s favorability ahead of the upcoming 2024 presidential election.
A new survey, conducted by Lake Research Partners, revealed a number of key findings surrounding registered voters and attitudes surrounding cannabis, namely that Biden could boost his favorability by 11% among younger voters should cannabis move from Schedule I to Schedule III.
To gather the data, researchers engaged 900 likely voters through phone calls and text-to-online outreach. The survey includes oversamples of younger voters and voters in presidential battleground states (100 voters aged 18-25 and 200 voters in battleground states, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin).
A Look at Voter Opinions on Cannabis Rescheduling
The survey looked more generally at the support behind rescheduling cannabis, with 58% of participants showing support and 19% opposed. Researchers said that support also crossed most demographic lines, and no more than one-third of voters in any major subgroup was opposed to rescheduling. Young voters, those aged 18-25, showed the strongest levels of support for rescheduling at 65%, with nearly half indicating they felt strongly about the issue. Support was strong across age demographics, with seniors showing support by a double-digit margin.
Democrats and independents also showed strong support (74% to 7% and 55% to 15%, respectively), while Republicans were more divided (41% to 31%) despite showing more support overall. The survey also found that younger Republicans and Republican women were disproportionately more supportive.
Two-thirds (66%) of voters also said that Biden should accept the recommendation, with young voters 18-25 showing overwhelming support (84% with 77% indicating they felt strongly about their answer).
Researchers also found that attacking rescheduling didn’t sway voters, despite the fact that “no punches were pulled” in articulating the opposing viewpoints. These include the rescheduling proposal being a “half measure,” comparing cannabis regulation unfavorably to regulating alcohol, the argument that it will provide “massive profits to pharmaceutical companies” while resulting in “hundreds of thousands of Americans behind bars for marijuana-related offenses).
After reviewing opposing arguments for rescheduling cannabis, 58% voters continued to support rescheduling while 18% opposed. Support among young voters remained strong, with 66% behind rescheduling including 50% with strong support.
A Potential Boost for Biden?
“By the end of the poll, impressions of Biden improve by a net double-digits — an 11-point swing overall, including a double-digit (+11-point) swing among younger voters,” the survey notes.
“In conclusion, rescheduling cannabis is not only the right move from a policy perspective, it is also politically helpful,” the survey concludes. “Nowhere is this more true than for younger voters—one of the most cross-pressured groups of voters, and also the most sanguine about rescheduling.”
Concrete talks of rescheduling cannabis first began in Oct. 2022, when Biden made a statement asking the secretary of HHS and the attorney general to review the scheduling of cannabis under federal law. In Aug. 2023, the HHS submitted its recommendation to the DEA to reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recently said they support reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule III substance, which would make medical cannabis and the research supporting it federally legal but still heavily regulated.
The DEA has final authority to schedule, reschedule or deschedule a drug under the DEA and is currently conducting its review. However, there is currently no specific timeframe on when the DEA will make its decision.
Researchers also note that the findings of the survey align with a recent Gallup poll, which found that support for legal cannabis hit a record high of 70% among all adults in the U.S. Namely, they highlight that the poll found the highest levels of support in the youngest age cohort, with 78% of the 18-34 age group supporting legalization.