More Americans Than Ever Support Legalizing Marijuana, Poll Shows

By Kelly Burch 10/21/16

The new Gallup Poll data arrives as nine states prepare to vote on marijuana legalization in November.

More Americans Than Ever Support Legalizing Marijuana, Poll Shows

Sixty percent of Americans now support legalized marijuana, a huge increase from 35% of adults supporting legalization in 2005. 

According to recent Gallup Poll data, the number of Americans supporting legalized pot has increased in every demographic, across all ages, races, genders and political affiliations. The poll asked a simple question: Should marijuana use be made legal, or not? Sixty percent of the 1,000 respondents answered in the affirmative. 

A Pew Research study conducted earlier this year found that 57% of American adults favor legalization, so the Gallup results are not surprising. However, it does represent the highest number of Americans ever in favor of legalization.

This fall, nearly 20% of the country will vote on marijuana legalization. Five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada—are considering recreational use, while four states—Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana—will consider legalizing for medical use. In all five states that are considering recreational use, marijuana is ahead in the polls

"These poll numbers are not surprising," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), in an email to the Washington Post earlier this month. "Most Americans agree that the responsible adult use of cannabis ought not to be criminalized. The battle now is finding consensus regarding the details of how best to regulate this market."

About half the country has already legalized marijuana for either recreational or medical use. 

Despite a majority of Americans being in favor of legalization, there is still a division along political lines. Seventy percent of Democrats and Independents favor legalization, while just 42% of Republicans do, according to the Gallup data. 

Neither presidential candidate is in favor of outright legalization. 

Hillary Clinton’s website states: "She believes we should use alternatives to incarceration for low-level, nonviolent marijuana users, and she will reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance.”

Donald Trump supports medical marijuana, but has backed away from support of legalization to a more cautious stance. 

According to Business Insider, Trump explained his thoughts on legalization to Martha Raddatz of ABC News in a November 2015 interview: "It's something that I've always said maybe it has to be looked at because we do such a poor job of policing. We don't want to build walls. We don't want to do anything. And if you're not going to want to do the policing, you're going to have to start thinking about other alternatives. But it's not something that I would want to do.”

No matter which candidate wins, however, marijuana legalization is likely to become more widespread on election day, matching what many Americans already believe. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.