American support for marijuana legalization at all-time high

Author: Leslie Simms - December 4, 2017 - Updated: January 1, 2018

James Cridland/Flickr/Creative Commons

Support for the legalization of marijuana has hit an all-time high, with a new Gallup Poll showing 64 percent of Americans now believe cannabis use should be legal.

The rise in support comes as states like Colorado that have legalized marijuana are seeing job growth and other strong economic gains, while also proving that the industry can be safe and healthy.

Just last month, Colorado reported its legal marijuana industry generated a record $1 billion in sales during the first eight months of 2017, producing more than $160 million in taxes and fees for critical Colorado services.

At the same time, health and crime studies have begun to allay opponents’ fears about legal marijuana’s impact on children and crime.

In Colorado, the state health department has found no increase in the use or frequency of use among teens or adults since marijuana was legalized. Washington state has reported similar findings from a study of its youth.

Other studies indicate the recreational marijuana industry has reduced the black market, has had no impact on violent crime and may actually be saving lives by helping to slow the opioid epidemic.

The newest data, from a survey conducted Oct. 5 to 11, marks the highest level of support since Gallup began polling on the issue in 1969. Back then, just 12 percent of Americans supported legalization. Support more than doubled by the end of the 1970s, then changed little throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

By 2001, Gallup says about a third of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, with support rising steadily since, mostly among Democrats and Independents.

This year, however, a majority of Republicans for the first time also backed the legal use of cannabis, with 51 percent indicating their support – up 9 percentage points from last year.

Gallup says the public sentiment follows a trajectory similar to that of same-sex marriage over the past few decades as Americans become increasingly liberal on social issues.

Leslie Simms