Updated below by Fester and Libby
I was supposed to post this a week ago in honor of the anniversary of alcohol prohibition. Since I didn't manage to do that, I'll post it in honor of the thread at Balloon Juice where I spent my afternoon debating drug war policy instead. Either way, the information is timeless.
One of the biggest arguments against legalization of white powder drugs is this notion that there would be an explosion of experimentation and America would instantly turn into a zombie drug addict nation. Well this survey explodes that myth.
StoptheDrugWar.org today released polling results suggesting that drug prohibition's main supporting argument may be simply wrong. Drug policy reformers point to a wide range of demonstrated social harms created by the drug laws -- crime and violence, spread of infectious diseases, official corruption, easy funding for terrorist groups, to name a few -- while prohibitionists argue that use and addiction would explode if drugs were legalized. But is the prohibitionist assumption well-founded?
Zogby polling data released today asked 1,028 likely voters, "If hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine were legalized, would you be likely to use them?" Ninety-ninety percent of respondents answered, "No." Only 0.6 percent said "Yes." The remaining 0.4 percent weren't sure.
I would have answered no as well because I don't have any desire to use those drugs now. Why would I change my mind just because it's legal? Why would anybody?
One problem with polls is that they are very good at telling you what people want you to hear. Stated preferences/behavior do not have to match up with actual preferences/behavior. For instance, federal statistics gathered through other survey means indicate that roughly 1% of the population actively uses cocaine/crack, and about 1 in 7 has ever tried cocaine. Going through college and thinking about a couple of dorms in the two weeks before finals, that sounds about right to me.
Update by Libby: Point well taken Fester, and I'm not a huge believer in the reliability of polling but I certainly trust independent studies more than the self-serving propaganda coming out of the ONDCP. They have a nasty habit of firing contractors whose studies don't deliver the desired data to justify continuing their ineffective policies.