New Hampshire Voters Support Drug Decriminalization

By Zachary Siegel 01/29/16

How a candidate tackles drug use is a huge factor in this election.

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A recent poll of New Hampshire primary voters revealed many are in favor of rolling back the War on Drugs. This means drug use, and its associated domains, ought to be handled through public health rather than criminal justice efforts.

Half of all Republican voters, and 68% of independents, according to the new poll, believe people caught with a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use should be evaluated for drug problems and offered retreat, rather than facing criminal charges or jail time. A staggering 73% of New Hampshire primary voters support eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

This aligns with what national polls have found, which show more than three-fourths of Americans believe the War on Drugs has failed. Across America, voters want to see reform in the criminal justice system, particularly around nonviolent drug offenders.

Apropos of a “gentler” War on Drugs, 66% of primary voters said New Hampshire’s drug possession laws are too harsh. Furthermore, 61% of voters agree that we should treat drug use as a public health issue, and should stop arresting and locking up people for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.

The opiate crisis has become the singular, bipartisan issue in the 2016 presidential cycle. A total of 37% of New Hampshire primary voters say that they or someone they know has been affected by prescription drug abuse, heroin abuse or overdose. In Northern Kentucky, a recent survey found that 1 in 3 people knows someone who has done heroin.

New Hampshire is among the five states that has seen skyrocketing opiate-related fatality. Nationally, overdose deaths have increased 400% from 1999 to 2014. About 125 people die every day from drug overdose.

Which is why 41% of New Hampshire voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate for president who promises to attack overdose at the federal level. The New Hampshire poll also found that 44% of voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who expands access to naloxone.

Substance use, and opiates in particular, during the 2016 election cycle has birthed a bipartisan effort to stem the skyrocketing overdose rates, as well as momentum to reform a broken criminal justice system. The newest poll of New Hampshire voters reveals people are seriously rethinking how government approaches these problems.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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