Majority of Americans Support Marijuana Legalization

Support for marijuana legalization is growing everywhere, and that trend is accelerating rapidly. It’s obvious with the shifting laws and the results of a recent Gallup poll. According to that poll, support for legalization is higher than ever. While some suggest these polls shouldn’t be the end-all barometer of public opinion, there is little arguing the changing attitudes across the country.

The results of the latest Gallup poll suggest a 58% approval rate for marijuana legalization. The question specifically asked if marijuana ought to be made legal for adult consumption; it didn’t ask about growing or selling marijuana.

gallupmarijuanaOnly 39% of respondents are opposed to marijuana legalization, down from ten percent last year.

According to NORML:

Pollsters attributed the rapid rise in support for legalization to changing attitudes among self-identified Independent voters. In 2012, 50 percent of Independents endorsed legalization, compared to 62 percent in 2013. Support among Democratic (65 percent) and Republican (35 percent) voters was little changed from 2012 to 2013.

Not surprisingly, the only age group to not have a majority in favor of legalization was those 65 and over.

“Americans’ support for legalization accelerated as the new millennium began,” said Gallup. “It is likely that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts across the United States.”

That’s exactly what many marijuana legalization advocates are hoping for—that this good news will further propel changes to local, state, and even national marijuana laws.

Those opposed to legalization, however, say “not so fast”. In writing for the Huffington Post, Dr. Kevin A. Sabet, PhD, and co-founder of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) suggests that the Gallup figures don’t paint a complete picture and that a “special interest marijuana lobby” is behind the changing tides of marijuana attitudes.

Sabet suggests that just like Big Tobacco, people with deep pockets are spending millions to get marijuana laws changed so they can cash in on the new industry. Sabet also questions the results of the Gallup poll entirely, suggesting it may be less reliable than others that have put legalization support at lower rates.

Pointing to “studies” that show the risks of marijuana use, Sabet says the legalization advocates aren’t giving people an accurate picture of the dangers of marijuana. But even if he is right and there are greater dangers to marijuana use than we know, wouldn’t it be up to a consenting adult to determine if those risks are something they are willing to take? After all, we make such risk assessments every day when choosing whether to drink alcohol or even eat fast food.

Sabet is mostly an outlier in his opinion and analysis of these trends, and there is no question that in the near future there will be plenty of ways to run afoul of marijuana laws. But most objective anaylsyis are much more positive about the trends continuing and accelerating.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones predicts that marijuana will be legal in most of the county by 2020. The 2016 election cycle will likely see many more states follow the lead of Colorado and Washington, and more will follow in 2020. Some state lawmakers may take on the subject directly, and actually pass legalization in the state legislatures, like Maine is currently proposing.

No matter what poll you look at, support for marijuana legalization is changing and that’s positive. It is simply not a controversial position anymore.  It is part of our culture, and widely accepted.

There is no turning back now.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Renter is a freelance writer and editor who writes about criminal justice issues.

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