Is There a 'Marijuana Middle'?

By Paul Gaita 12/12/14

A recent poll shows that while some may support medical marijuana, that doesn't mean they approve of its recreational use.

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The moderate Washington D.C. think tank Third Way published the results of a recent poll on medical and recreational marijuana, which revealed some self-evident truths and a few surprising ones as well.

The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove in October 2014, supported previous findings on the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, with 50% of respondents in support and 47% opposed to it. From a demographic standpoint, legalization was largely supported by millennials, non-whites, and Independent voters, as well as 30% of Republicans respondents.

On the issue of medical marijuana, there was no such dichotomy: 78% of respondents were in favor of allowing patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s consent, while only 18% opposed it. Further questioning found that 36% of respondents viewed individuals who used marijuana for recreational purposes in a favorable light, with 54% regarding them unfavorably. However, 55% of respondents viewed medical marijuana favorably, which underscored a decided schism on the issue.

Third Way described these voters who showed support for medical marijuana use but opposition to recreational marijuana as “the marijuana middle.” From a demographic standpoint, these individuals were only slightly more Republican (44%), with 36% responding as Democrats, and 24% as Independents. Age-wise, this group skewed older, with 61% over the age of 50.

A second group of marijuana middle voters—those who supported Congressional passage of a safe haven from federal law for states that have already legalized marijuana, but opposed recreational marijuana—showed a similar breakdown along age and party lines, with 40% identifying themselves as Republicans, 30% Democrats, and 28% Independents, and 55% over the age of 50.

“More research still needs to be done to identify a compelling value for legalizing recreational marijuana—the way that compassion underlines support for medical marijuana," Third way said about the findings. "[But] a supermajority of Americans believe that federal policymakers have a role to play in this discussion, and that they should act to provide a safe haven from federal law for states that have already legalized marijuana and are acting responsibly to strictly regulate it.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.