Support for full cannabis legalization in the United States is higher than it's ever been – no pun intended. New research from the Pew Charitable Trust states that 62% of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal – a massive increase from 31% at the dawn of the new millennium.
So far, 30 states and the District of Columbia have approved the plant for medical and/or adult-use, while our neighbors to the north in Canada are celebrating nationwide reform.
Support for legal weed has been steadily rising over the last several years across the board, but according to the Pew poll, Republicans have made the most strides. This year, 45% of conservative respondents favored cannabis legalization; that's a six percentage point increase from only three years ago.
Generationally speaking, Millennials were most likely to support marijuana, with 74% in favor of ending federal prohibition. Baby Boomers were somewhat split, with 54% in favor, while the Silent Generation remains the most opposed to pot – only 39% agree with reform.
“The fact that support continues to grow as states have been ending marijuana prohibition over the past few years suggests Americans are comfortable with the changes that are taking place,” said Marijuana Policy Project Spokesman Mason Tvert, in an interview with Cannabis Now Magazine. “They see cannabis being sold legally in regulated businesses and they recognize it is a much more preferable system,” he said. “The idea of arresting and punishing adults for consuming marijuana is becoming increasingly unpopular, and elected officials are taking notice.”
Voters in four states will decide on cannabis initiatives this coming November; adult-use is on the ballot in the Midwestern states of Michigan and North Dakota while constituents in Missouri and Utah will decide on medical. Regardless of the outcome, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has already stated that he plans to call a special session to debate a separate medical marijuana proposal.
According to a poll conducted by Quinnipiac University earlier this year, national support of marijuana for medical use is at a whopping 93% with only about 5% of respondents opposing.
The Trump administration has recently called for public comments on rescheduling cannabis, asking the public to submit their opinions on the “abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use.”
“A careful review of the relevant science does not now, nor has it ever, supported a hard-line approach to cannabis scheduling,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, said in an interview with Forbes. “Cannabis’s abuse potential relative to other substances, including legal substances like alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications, does not warrant its continued criminalization under either U.S. or international law. By any rational assessment, cannabis prohibition is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter and international laws should no longer classify it as such."
David Kani is a California based trial lawyer, author, and social commentator. Connect with David at [hidden email] or to book David to speak at your event, please contact [hidden email].