Pew Research: Overwhelming 90% of Americans Back Marijuana Legalization

Over the past decade, the landscape of cannabis in the United States has undergone a dramatic transformation. Presently, 38 states have embraced legal medical or recreational cannabis, encompassing 74% of the American population. Additionally, 79% reside in counties hosting at least one cannabis dispensary. The proliferation of legal cannabis is exemplified by the fact that the nation boasts nearly 15,000 dispensaries, outnumbering McDonald’s locations, which total approximately 13,500.

WASHINGTON DC APRIL 02: Hundreds of advocates for marijuana legalization rally and smoke pot outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on April 02, 2016. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

With legalization gaining momentum as a significant political issue, it comes as no surprise that American attitudes toward cannabis have overwhelmingly shifted in favor of legalization.

Pew Research Center’s latest report, based on a survey conducted from January 16-21, 2024, among 5,140 adult participants, reaffirms this trend. An astounding 88% of Americans support the legalization of cannabis for either medical or recreational use. Furthermore, 57% advocate for its legality for both purposes, while 32% believe it should only be permissible for medical use. Only a mere 11% oppose legalization entirely.

Examining attitudes toward the impact of legalization, 52% of respondents perceive it as beneficial for local economies, with 42% viewing it as enhancing fairness in the criminal justice system.

However, opinions diverge on potential negative effects of recreational cannabis legalization. Around 29% of respondents believe it increases other drug usage, while 34% think it decreases community safety. Notably, these views are more prevalent among Republican respondents.

Despite increasing bipartisan support for cannabis reform, Democrats are more inclined to endorse its positive effects, such as economic benefits and fairness in the criminal justice system, compared to Republicans.

Interestingly, older adults exhibit less support for legalization than younger generations, aligning with previous survey trends. Nevertheless, the overall trend indicates a consistent and significant level of support for marijuana legalization across demographics.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), attributes this growing support to the success of cannabis policies and the public’s preference for legalization over prohibition. He emphasizes that elected officials who resist cannabis reform may face political consequences.

As the debate surrounding cannabis continues, these survey findings underscore the evolving attitudes toward legalization and its broader implications for American society.


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