A Shift in Public Opinion on the Legalization of Marijuana

More Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana today compared to a decade ago, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.
Today, 57 percent of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37 percent say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse, with just 32 percent favored legalization, while 60 percent were opposed.
The survey by Pew Research Center was conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 U.S. adults.
The findings:
  • Millennials today between the ages of 18 to 35 are more than twice as likely to support legalization of marijuana as they were in 2006 (71 percent today, up from 34 percent in 2006).
  • Millennials are significantly more likely to support legalization than other generations.
  • Support for marijuana legalization has also increased among members of Generation X and Baby Boomers (ages 36-51 and 52-70 in 2016, respectively).
  • More than half of Gen Xers (57 percent) support legalization, a considerable jump from just 21 percent in 1990. A majority of Boomers (56 percent) also support legalization, up from just 17 percent in 1990.
  • By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66 percent vs. 30 percent). Most Republicans (55 percent) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41 percent favor it.
Abigail Geiger of the Pew Research Center writes, “The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use.”
While Vermont has not legalized marijuana, the state has taken steps to make medical marijuana more accessible. This year, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a new law to expand the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing patients with additional qualifying conditions, including chronic pain, access to medical cannabis. Patients who suffer from chronic pain often find cannabis to be a safer, non-addictive treatment for pain management than opioid-based prescription drug

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