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The American public would rather the government take a health-centered approach to drug policy instead of prosecuting drug users, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans say the government should put treatment first when it comes to dealing with drugs.

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Far fewer think the country can arrest its way out of the drug war. Only 26 percent said the government should focus on criminal prosecutions of drug users.

Source: Pew Research Center

Government policies lag behind national attitudes about drugs. More than four million people have been arrested during the decades-long war on drugs, and billions of dollars have been spent on law enforcement.

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Meanwhile, support for an enforcement-first approach is fading fast.

The biggest change in public perception is around marijuana. Pot arrests make up half of all drug arrests in the U.S., but three out of four Americans think that minor possession of the drug shouldn’t result in jail time. More than half support full legalization.

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Source: Pew Research Center

In the eyes of the federal government, marijuana is still considered a dangerous drug with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The Obama administration is trying to work with states that have legalized marijuana, though. In February, the Department of Justice issued guidelines meant to show banks they won’t be punished for providing services to marijuana-related businesses in states where the drug has been approved for legal use.

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Marijuana dispensary owners in Colorado, however, say the government hasn’t gone far enough and that they’re still struggling with banking needs.

The poll released today shows that the public is not only opposed to jail time for small-scale marijuana crimes, they’re also against mandatory sentences for a greater range of drug offenses.

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Source: Pew Research Center

The U.S. prison population has swelled in recent decades, in a large part because of mandatory drug sentencing, which takes away a judge’s discretion when giving jail time to certain drug offenders.

The Obama administration hasn’t been unmoved. Attorney General Eric Holder is pushing for reduced sentences for people convicted of dealing drugs, as well as an end to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

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Still, spending for drug-law enforcement — domestic and international — outflanks what the government devotes to treatment, a trend that will likely continue for the rest of the president’s tenure.

Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy

The issue could be relevant in the 2016 presidential elections. One potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who is often critical of President Obama, has stood united with the administration on the call to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

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The takeaway: Political positions on drug policy may continue to evolve over the next few years, if polling data is any indication. Younger people are less likely to see national drug use as a crisis, and much more likely to say it’s not a problem in their communities.

Source: Pew Research Center

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.