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Support for Cannabis Legalization Grows to 62%

October 8, 2018
A growing supermajority of Americans stand ready to end the failed war on cannabis, Pew finds. (FoxysGraphic/iStock)
With the 2018 elections less than a month away, support for cannabis legalization continues to climb. More than six in ten Americans now think cannabis use should be made legal, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The increase continues three decades of steadily growing support among nearly all demographic groups—and represents double the support Pew found in 2000. Even groups who remain opposed to legalization, such as Republicans and older Americans, have become far more favorable to the idea in the past several years.

pew marijuana legalization poll 1

(Pew Research Center)

All told, 62% of Americans favor legalization, Pew found. Younger generations were more supportive, with majorities of millennials (74%), Generation Xers (63%), and baby boomers (54%) on the side of legalization.

pew marijuana legalization poll 2

(Pew Research Center)

Among the Silent Generation, or those born between 1928 and 1945, 39% said they support legalization. That’s lower than other generations, but it’s a significant increase from a year earlier and nearly double what it was in 2000.

Other demographic groups with majorities opposed to legalization include white evangelical protestants (52% opposed) and Republicans (51%). Among respondents who identified as Hispanic, 50% said they oppose legalization while 48% said they support it.

Nearly every other demographic group surveyed, however—including men, women, blacks, whites, Catholics, mainline Protestants, the religiously unaffiliated, and people of all levels of education—showed strong support for legalization.

pew marijuana legalization survey 3

(Pew Research Center)

The overall 62% support is only slightly higher than the 61% support Pew found a year ago, in October 2017. The percentage of Americans opposed to legalization changed more significantly, falling from 37% to 34%.

“A growing majority of Americans are ready to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and move on,” Steve Hawkins, executive director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “They see states regulating marijuana for medical and adult use, and they recognize it is a much more effective approach. Laws that treat cannabis consumers like criminals and disproportionately impact communities of color are steadily losing popularity across the U.S.”

Voters in four US states will consider legalizing some form of cannabis in November’s elections. Michigan and North Dakota are set to vote on adult-use legalization, while Utah and Missouri will vote on legalization for medical use.

The Pew survey polled 1,754 adults across all 50 states between Sept. 18 and Sept. 24, 2018.

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Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a senior editor at Leafly who specializes in politics and the law. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • Jenn Erich

    “Even groups who remain opposed to legalization, such as Republicans and older Americans, have become far more favorable to the idea in the past several years.”

    Mr. Adlin, Is that a factual statement? If so, please provide backup for this assertion you make. If it is your opinion, then I shall correct you. Behold:

    Are you aware that the initiative to legalize cannabis began way back circa early 1970’s? Do the math… that would mean those who began this are now OLDER. Yet you begin by alienating your audience with this generalization, as if it is you kids who did the legwork. Then you follow your “herd” with the false axiom: Democrats Good; Republicans Bad. The Republicans are not the enemy of cannabis. And Democrats are not its friend. If you would wipe the dirt from your hippie mini-bus windshield so you can see clearly as you move down the road, you would see that many bills sponsored by Republicans to legalize sit languishing in congress, just as they did with Democrat administrations. Mr. Cory Gardner, REPUBLICAN-Colorado, spoke to President Trump personally after holding up the President’s judicial nominees. This REPUBLICAN got the oral agreement from President Trump that the cannabis issue for states would be resolved. That is only one example. If you would use a wider net, perhaps you would not alienate thoughtful conservatives since they want to bring back our Constitutional Republic which means less laws and more individual liberty. Or you can continue to peer through the tiny part of the windshield you have cleared and pretend the Democrats are not marching toward socialism. And once you have your socialism, forget legalization and the individual liberty to use this plant to its maximum capabilities. Bring all sides together, stop alienating people who may be on the side of this embattled plant (weed). Thank you. JE

    • R. Schmidt

      He is relaying information from Pew Research you bigoted Republican Nazi

      • James

        More open-mindedness. Refreshing.

    • Scooter Bell

      I think if you look at the demographic profiles( religious, political, age group, etc. ) associated with the number analysis, you might cut
      Mr. Adlin a little slack. The other quotes:

      “Other demographic groups with majorities opposed to legalization include white evangelical protestants (52% opposed) and Republicans (51%). Among respondents who identified as Hispanic, 50% said they oppose legalization while 48% said they support it.”
      “Nearly every other demographic group surveyed, however—including men, women, blacks, whites, Catholics, mainline Protestants, the religiously
      unaffiliated, and people of all levels of education—showed strong support for legalization.”

      So I don’t think it was a political carpet-bombing statement aimed at any one group. Overall, there is a larger number of people favoring
      legalization than not. At this time. BTW: I’d go to a Catholic sermon if the Pope(Catholic) smoked a reefer! :] . Peace – SB

      • Jenn Erich

        I see that he referenced the numbers from PEW. I do not see anything as to age, however. I may have over-reacted… it has been very frustrating watching the legalization efforts for over 50 years go almost nowhere. It seems ineffective to me to cut off half of the politicians by ASSUMING they are against cannabis. I started out in the 1970s as a raving hippy democrat liberal. I grew up in the late 1980’s and became a republican and a conservative but I never changed my opinion of cannabis. In fact since learning of the medical advances, it has become even more frustrating to see that all the efforts are directed left. The fact that we all, democrats, republicans, even socialists, have an endocannabinoid system inside our bodies shows that cannabis is not a partisan issue.

    • Josie

      That’s nice, but an oral agreement from Trump is worth less than “the dirt from your hippie mini-bus windshield”. That creature is a chronic liar…

      • James

        There’s that open-mindedness. Heh.

    • Kraig

      Extremely well put Jenn!

    • James

      Jenn that was brilliant. Almost unsubscribed from their emails because the article was so inane.

      Author’s twitter is a combination of useful insights into legalization and hand-wringing over the Justice Kavanaugh controversy when the left decided to drag him and his family through the mud at all costs (some before they even know who the pick was).

  • Ken Lima

    I’am a 71 year old conservative republican and have used marijuana for over 50 years and I resent your generalization very much!!! All legalization has done in California is raise the price of weed out of sight with high taxes by greedy politicians.

    • Gary Craig

      I’m a 60 year old member of the Democratic Party. My use of cannabis, since the mid 80’s, has been “few and far between.” One reason for stopping was my employment and being subject to urinalysis. By the way I had no problem, whatsoever, stopping. I’ve since retired. My problem now is a lack of availability. 60 year olds with 0 connections get 0 weed. I look at other states and see the freedom they have that I’m denied. While we do have mmj I need, what I refer to, a “permission slip.” Maybe one day, hopefully soon.

      • Jenn Erich

        Go to Las Vegas! It’s legal and quite available in very nice stores called dispensaries. Flights to Vegas are cheap, just don’t bring it home. If you are able to travel, all you need in Vegas is a drivers license.

  • Sally Bowen

    I don’t like vaping, but I do like the relief from fibromyalgia pain. Fibromyalgia nearly ruined my life until I found marijuana. It works, and I tried every OTC and prescription drug there is. No comparison. But I have to keep using it. And it’s so expensive! It’s a weed! God gave us this drug that’s natural and safe if careful. And it was (or is) illegal and medical marijuana costs so much. $50 for a 1/8th is just ridiculous. But, yeah, I am all for it! Recreational? I truly believe that it is better than alcohol. I’be seen so many lives ruined by the alcohol drug!

  • chas whit

    Facts as these confuse libs.

    Great info Jenn !

    see The Secrets of Medicinal Marijuana by Barbara H Whitfield

    • Jenn Erich

      Thank you!

  • furryhearts

    I don’t see the white evangelist or republicans ever supporting marijuana. Vote BLUE in Nov.

    • Jenn Erich

      White evangelist?? Again, the left proves they are the racists. You should open your mind. I KNOW there are many who do support cannabis. Stoners ruined their own case in this effort. Keep voting BLUE so you ensure your future is BLUE… sad, lost, empty, cold… blue.

      • Gary Craig

        I’m center left and I don’t consider myself racist. Sounds like you’re saying those of us on the left are racist, as if the right is racist free. Hope you don’t take this the wrong way.

        • Jenn Erich

          The left is totally obsessed with race. They do not see individuals, they see a pigment-sporting group-member, when they look at a person. The left brings up pigment and genitalia endlessly and make so-called racists jokes with impunity, like Hillary the other day saying all black men look alike. We conservatives see people as individuals. We do not care about pigment or genitalia. We JUDGE a person on his or her virtues, merits, and actions. Like, we don’t believe a liar because a liar shares the same genitalia as we do.

  • Jeff Brown

    Cannabis is the most useful plant on the planet; food, clothing, shelter, energy, medicine, insight, re-creation. It has been mankinds companion and helpmate since the beginning. Any law against it is a crime against humanity, creation and the Creator.

    • Etidorhpa

      Now lets legalize opium. It’s a crime against humanity , creation and the Creator.

  • It is absolutely rediculeous to politically hack Marijuana. Party preference has nothing to do with anything. If it did, Libertarians and Greens would register 100% support.
    Both Republicans and Democrats are unworthy of trust as both parties are infested with lying, two-faced scumbag career politicians.
    Young Republicans have championed strong legislation in favor of weed. You think Chuck Schumer or Dianne Feinstein will actually support legalization after the election? Get a life! They’re lying for votes along with Trump, Grassley and McConnell.

    This Red State/Blue State mentality is for fools. If this issue doesn’t unite the people then the only ones to blame for failure is us.

    • Jenn Erich

      Excellent. No matter what a person thinks about welfare, taxes, trade, etc. is irrelevant to freeing this plant from the stigma and erroneous classification as dangerous. It is not. It is medicinal and safe. If our right to grow and use a weed does not unite us, nothing will.

  • CBrains

    I too object to the reference of “older” Americans opposing legalization. I’m older and I know lots of other older Americans and we all support legalization, in thought and active consumption. We’re the ones who risked getting busted to open that door initially in the 60’s! You also say baby boomers support legalization–I am in that group as well, therefore I must think that baby boomers and older Americans are the same group!

    • Jenn Erich

      Right on! Thank you. I thought I was alone! We can only hope the kid who wrote this came back and read the comments. But I doubt it because the young people these days seem to think it’s better to repeat our mistakes than take five minutes to listen.

  • Etidorhpa

    Trump , Pence 2020!

  • Jenn Erich

    Bravo! Thank you. I thought I was the only one!