On the eve of the coolest holiday of the year, here’s some relevant news: A recent poll suggests that more than 90% of Americans support cannabis legalization in one shape or another. The results come in the wake of several more states having legalized the drug in 2021, as well as a renewed push by some politicians to decriminalize its use nationally.
The nationally representative survey was conducted by Pew Research Center earlier this month and involved online interviews with more than 5,000 people over the age of 18. The results were released last Friday.
In total, 91% of respondents said they backed cannabis legalization in general. When asked more specifically, 60% said they supported both medical and recreational legalization, while 31% said they only supported medical legalization. The findings are close to those from a similar Pew survey in 2019, and they reflect a steady climb in the public acceptance of cannabis use. From 2000 to 2019, according to Pew, the percentage of Americans who said it should be legal more than doubled.
The results also make plenty of sense, given recent victories in the drug legalization movement. In the past six months, seven states have fully legalized its use. In November, New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana passed ballot measures to allow recreational cannabis use; since then, New York, Virginia and New Mexico have passed their own similar laws. And still more states such as Delaware or Minnesota are currently weighing legislation that could be voted through this year.
On the national level, President Biden has previously announced his support for the decriminalization of cannabis possession but not full-throated legalization. A group of Democratic senators are expected to soon introduce their legislation for decriminalizing cannabis use, but it’s not yet clear whether this would receive enough Republican support to pass through conventional means.
Indeed, while members of both parties do support some cannabis legalization, there does seem to be a meaningful divide between them. The Pew poll found that only 47% of Republicans or Republican-leaning respondents supported its full legalization, compared to 72% of Democrats or Democrat-leaning people.
That said, the largest gap in support for cannabis is undoubtedly linked to age. While only 32% of people over 75 said they supported full (recreational and medical) legalization, 70% of adults under 30 said the same. And the group least likely to back full legalization were Republicans over 65, with 27% support.