Two-Thirds Of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana

By Kelly Burch 10/24/18

Analysts say that more politicians are getting behind marijuana legalization as their constituents express their support. 

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With two-thirds of Americans saying that they are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, advocates for cannabis reform say that the time is right for making major changes to United States drug policy. 

"The train has left the station," Rep. Earl Blumenauer told NBC News. "I see all the pieces coming together... It's the same arc we saw two generations ago with the prohibitions of alcohol.”

According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month, 66% of Americans support legalizing marijuana. This was consistent throughout all regions of the country.

Young Americans are the most likely to support legalization, with 78% of 18- to 34-year-olds in favor—but even among older adults, support is high, with 59% of Americans over 55 supporting legalization. 

There are some political differences, however. While 75% of Democrats and 71% of independents are in favor of marijuana legalization, only 53% of Republicans support legalization. Still, support is growing in the party and this is the first year that a majority of Republicans are in favor. 

“Like support for gay marriage—and in prior years, interracial marriage—support for marijuana legalization has generally only expanded, even if slowly, over the course of multiple decades—raising the question of where the ceiling in support might be,” the Gallup poll concluded. “As the percentage of Americans who favor legalizing pot has continued to grow, so has the number of states that have taken up legislation to allow residents to use the substance recreationally.”

This November, residents in four more states will vote on changes to marijuana policy. Michigan and North Dakota residents are considering legalizing recreational cannabis, while Utah voters are considering whether to legalize medical marijuana. In Missouri, residents will vote on three different measures to allow medical marijuana. 

Analysts say that more politicians are getting behind marijuana legalization as their constituents express their support. 

“The tipping point probably passed one or two election cycles ago,” said Tom Angell, founder of the news site Marijuana Moment. “It keeps becoming more and more apparent that it will be impossible for prohibitionists to reverse our gains. And as a result, more mainstream politicians are getting on board.”

Last week, Canada became the second country to fully legalize marijuana, after experiencing a similar change in public opinion toward the drug. 

“Politicians embraced it because it's actually good politics,” said Blumenauer. “They can read the polls.”

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