A record-high 50 percent of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be legal, up from 46 percent last year, according to a new Gallup Poll. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal.
The rapidly increasing historical trend in favor of legalizing marijuana continues, up from just 36 percent in 2006.
“These numbers from Gallup, as well as the California Medical Association’s recent endorsement of marijuana legalization, show that momentum is on the side of reformers, so it’s no wonder that the drug warriors are getting scared and ramping up their attacks,” Franklin said. “People are clearly waking up to the fact that we can no longer afford the fiscal and human costs of this failed ‘war on drugs.’ Savvy politicians would do well to take heed.”
“The latest poll results point to the absurdity and even venality of persisting with harsh prohibitionist policies,” said Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
. “No other law is enforced so harshly and pervasively yet deemed unnecessary by so many Americans.
“Spending billions of dollars and arresting over 800,000 people annually for violating marijuana laws now represents not just foolish public policy but also an inappropriate and indecent use of police powers to favor one side of a cultural and political debate,” Nadelmann pointed out.
|Notes From The Psychedelic Salon|
|Ethan Nadelmann, Drug Policy Alliance: “The latest poll results point to the absurdity and even venality of persisting with harsh prohibitionist policies”|
“This is an historic day in the decades-long war on marijuana,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
. “As of today, a majority of the American public believes the use of marijuana should be legal for adults.
“Moreover, it is clear from the levels of support among various age groups that support will only increase over time,” Kampia said. “None of this is surprising.
“Americans know that prohibition is a failed policy,” Kampia said. “It was true for alcohol, and it is true for marijuana, a substance far less harmful than alchol. The American people are clearly saying it is time to stop arresting adults for using marijuana.
“Now is the time for our elected officials to listen to the public,” Kampia said.
The poll comes at an interesting time, with many states reexamining their marijuana laws and a series of bills sitting before Congress that would limit federal involvement in marijuana policy.
Currently, the Obama Administration is reversing its earlier stance of non-interference in medical marijuana states and is increasing efforts to shut down the medical marijuana industry in California and elsewhere, a move that experts say will drive medical marijuana patients into the criminal market to obtain their medicine.
At the same time, several states, including Colorado, California, and Washington, are considering ballot initiatives that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
When Gallup first asked about legalizing marijuana, back in 1969, only 12 percent of Americans supported it, while 84 percent were opposed. Support remained in the mid-20s in Gallup polls from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s, but has crept up since then as the truth got out, passing 30 percent in 2000 and 40 percent in 2009 before reaching the 50 percent level in the 2011 Crime survey, taken October 6-9.
|Behold, the tipping point.|
Marijuana is the most commonly “abused” illegal drug in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009 found that “16.7 million Americans aged 12 or older used marijuana at least once in the month prior to being surveyed, an increase over the rates reported in all the years between 2002 and 2008.”
Marijuana is the third-most popular drug in America, behind only alcohol and tobacco and gaining on both of them, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Some states have already decriminalized use and possession of cannabis, some of have made it legal for medicinal use, and some officials, including former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, have called for legalizing its use.
A Gallup survey last year found that 70 percent favored making cannabis legal for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering. Americans have consistently been more likely to favor the use of marijuana for medical purposes than to favor its general legalization.
Support for legalizing marijuana is directly and inversely proportional to age, ranging from 62 percent approval among those 18 to 29, down to 31 percent among those 65 and older.
Liberals are twice as likely as conservatives to favor legalizing marijuana, and both Democrats and independents are more likely to favor legalization than are Republicans.
More men than women support marijuana legalization. Those in the West and Midwest are more likely to favor it than those in the South.
Support for legalizing marijuana has been increasing over the past several years, rising to the current level, which is the highest on record, according to Gallup.
Results for this poll are based on telephone interviews conducted October 6-9, 2011, with a random sample of 1,005 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.
Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region.
You can view the survey’s methodology, full question results, and trend data by clicking here [PDF]