Op-Ed

62% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana

U.S. public opinion on legalizing marijuana, 1969-2018About six-in-ten Americans (62%) say the use of marijuana should be legalized, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The share of U.S. adults who support marijuana legalization is little changed from about a year ago – when 61% favored it – but it is double what it was in 2000 (31%).

As in the past, there are wide generational and partisan differences in views of marijuana legalization. Majorities of Millennials (74%), Gen Xers (63%) and Baby Boomers (54%) say the use of marijuana should be legal. Members of the Silent Generation continue to be the least supportive of legalization (39%), but they have become more supportive in the past year.

Nearly seven-in-ten Democrats (69%) say marijuana use should be legal, as do 75% of independents who lean toward the Democratic Party.

Republicans are divided, with 45% in favor of legalizing marijuana and 51% opposed. Still, the share of Republicans saying marijuana should be legal has increased from 39% in 2015. Independents who lean toward the Republican Party are far more likely than Republicans to favor marijuana legalization (59% vs. 45%). 

Wide partisan gap in 2018 in opinions about legalizing marijuana useThe growth in public support for legal marijuana in recent years runs in tandem with growth in initiatives across the country to legalize the drug for medical or recreational purposes. In Utah earlier this month, the Mormon church backed a deal supported by lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert that would legalize medical marijuana in the state. This November, voters across seven states will vote on a variety of statewide and local marijuana reform measures. (Later this month, marijuana will become legal across the northern border in Canada.)

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, 31 states – plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico – have legalized the drug for medical purposes. In addition, twenty-two states and the district have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, and legislation in at least 16 states has amended marijuana penalties in the past five years. Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published Jan. 5, 2018. The full topline for this post can be found here (PDF), and the methodology is here.

Topics: Drugs, Political Attitudes and Values


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