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Support for Cannabis Legalization Continuing to Rise

Pew Research Cannabis Support

Last election cycle saw a symbolic milestone achieved in the fight to legalize cannabis in the United States – Ohio’s approval marked the 25th state in the Union to have legalized the usage of cannabis in one form or another.

The Pew Research Center took note of this several months ago, in an interesting article that chronicles the trends in public opinion of cannabis legalization over the years.  They report that approximately 57% of US adults believe cannabis should be made legal, while just 37% oppose legalization efforts.

Just ten years ago, these percentages were basically reversed (32% and 60%, respectively); public opinion is changing extremely rapidly on this issue, and cannabis support is taking hold even more quickly than support for gay marriage and other controversial legal developments in the nation.

The differences become even more pronounced when you dig down into the demographics of the respondents.  Age is one specific variable to notice – support among Millennials is at an amazing 71%, which has more than doubled in their age cohort since 2006 (34%).  Among Generation X, support has nearly tripled (57% currently versus 21% in 1990), and among the Boomers, it actually has (56% vs 17%).

Race is another; identical majorities of whites and blacks both support cannabis legalization (59%), but Hispanic support for legalization is just 46% (and 49% of Hispanics feel it should be illegal).  Perhaps this has something to do with the reality of the War on Drugs on how this has shaped circumstances in their countries of origin.

Almost all of the resistance to cannabis legalization seems to be coming from one specific demographic: Conservative Republicans, who oppose the legalization of cannabis by a nearly two-to-one margin (33% in favor with 62% opposed).  Moderate Republicans nearly mirror the rest of the country when it comes to their views on the issue (63% in favor, 35% opposed).

So what does all of this mean for legalization efforts?  Frankly, it seems that legalization is all but a foregone conclusion, despite the most recent presidential election results.  Other recent polls, from organizations such as Gallup, have pegged support for medical marijuana usage approaching 90%.  It is almost certain that cannabis will be legalized or decriminalized at the federal level within the next decade or two.

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