How do people in the US feel about cannabis legalization? To find out, a General Social Survey, funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, interviewed roughly 1,900 adults in 2016.
The Washington Post analyzed the biannual public opinion survey results and reported on them. According to the study, public support for cannabis legalization is escalating. In 2014, 52% of Americans thought the use of marijuana should be legal. In 2016 this number increased to 57%. Other studies conducted in 2016 confirm these results.
Growth in support for cannabis legalization across age groups
On closer examination, the results show two significant trends. The age group most supportive of marijuana policies are those between 18 -34, with two thirds supporting legalization. The majority of people aged 35-49 and 50-64 also support the policies, but those who are 65 and older are less likely to support cannabis legalization.
Despite this, the percentage of older adults supporting cannabis legalization has doubled since 2008. In that year, only 40% of US citizens thought cannabis legalization would be a positive step.
What about the lawmakers?
In 2000, both Democrats and Republicans had a similar stance on cannabis. Only 29% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans were in favor of legalization. Since then, Democrats and Independents have changed their minds. 60% of them now support legal cannabis while only 40% of Republicans think cannabis should be legal.
Although more Republicans than ever before now support legal cannabis, growth in the number of politicians likely to approve cannabis use has slowed to 1% per year. Analysts say that this figure indicates that Republicans do not support cannabis and are unlikely to change their minds anytime soon.
Minority opposition can still be powerful
According to Gallup, marijuana use is popular and widespread, with 33 million Americans currently admitting to using the herb. The victories of California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada last year indicates that 1 in every 5 citizens has legal access to cannabis where they live.
Even though they are in the minority, many lawmakers and law enforcers remain staunchly opposed to cannabis legalization. Massachusetts, a Democratic state, lobbied vigorously against cannabis, and some politicos are working hard at delaying implementation. The same thing is happening in Maine.
Federal government sits on the fence – except when it doesn’t
The Trump administration has made marijuana a minor issue. It has been very evasive in its approach. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the other hand, is openly anti-cannabis. Although he has only tackled recreational cannabis use, people using medical cannabis also fear what may happen if Federal government begins to override State cannabis laws.
Nevertheless, with such widespread support for cannabis, it seems likely that Federal government will burn its fingers if it tries to interfere. As increasing numbers of people actively support medical and recreational cannabis, legalization seems likelier than ever before.