New Poll Shows Strong Support for Legalizing Marijuana, Less for Recreational Use

By Paul Gaita 04/21/17

The new poll also showed that parents are more concerned with cigarettes than marijuana.

marijuana proponents protesting in Washington DC.

More than half of Americans have tried marijuana at some point in their lives, and while a majority continues to use it, there remains resistance to the idea of making it legal for recreational use.

Those are the findings of a new poll conducted by Yahoo News and The Marist Poll, which surveyed by phone more than 1,000 adults about marijuana use and the family, legalization efforts and social beliefs regarding marijuana use. The results of the poll were published on April 17.

More than half of the poll respondents (52%) stated that they had tried marijuana at some point in their lives, and of that number, 44% said they continue to use it. With each percentage point equivalent, by poll standards, to more than 500,000 adults, the poll findings would indicate that more than 128 million people, 18 years of age or older, have tried marijuana at some point. Of that number, 65% (more than 83 million) are parents, while 30% of those individuals are parents with children younger than 18 years of age.

As for regular use, 22% of respondents stated that they use marijuana, which by poll definition, is less than once or twice a month. Of that number, 54% are parents, 55% are male, and a majority are in the "millennial" age bracket. Nearly 7 in 10 do not have a college degree, and are more likely describe themselves as "very liberal or liberal" (53%). A slim number of respondents—14%, or more than 34 million adults—said that they use it at least once or twice a month.

Somewhat more surprising were the poll results regarding how those that identified as parents viewed marijuana in regard to their children. Only 1/5th of respondents placed marijuana at the top of a list of concerns about their children's health and safety: marijuana placed below cigarettes, at 21% and 24%, respectively, and tied with alcohol for the top three leading parental concerns. However, 70% of adults overall said that their own parents would disapprove of them using marijuana for recreational use.

In regard to legalization efforts, there was strong support for medical marijuana. It was favored by those who have tried marijuana (94%) and those who use it (98%), while 81% of parents also voiced their support; a modest amount of those that have tried (37%) and those who use (29%) also stated that the most positive aspect of marijuana is its ability to help with some medical problems.

But when it came to recreational marijuana, respondents were divided, with 49% supporting and 47% opposed. A majority of parents (53%) were opposed to recreational use, while those that have tried marijuana (70%) and those who use it (89%) were in favor of recreational legalization efforts. The majority of respondents (62%) ultimately said that they would not use marijuana as a self-prescribed pain reliever, even if it were legal.

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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.