Think Mary Jane should be legal? You’re not alone. In just one year, the percentage of Americans who favor legalizing marijuana jumped ten percentage points from a small, 48 percent minority to a large, 58 percent majority.
Only 39 percent of people polled said marijuana should remain illegal. They also probably still think the war on drugs is money well spent.
According to Gallup, which has conducted a marijuana survey every year since 1969, much of that jump is attributable to law changes in Washington and Colorado at the end of 2012.
“The increasing prevalence of medical marijuana as a socially acceptable way to alleviate symptoms of diseases such as arthritis, and as a way to mitigate side effects of chemotherapy, may have also contributed to Americans’ growing support,” the researchers wrote. “With Americans’ support for legalization quadrupling since 1969, and localities on the East Coast such as Portland, Maine, considering a symbolic referendum to legalize marijuana, it is clear that interest in this drug and these issues will remain elevated in the foreseeable future.”
Researchers sampled 1,028 adults from all 50 states earlier this month,
Public support in 1969 was just 12 percent. That grew to about 28 percent briefly in 1970 before dipping to around 25 percent until the mid-1990s when it began a steady climb.
Gallup researchers say that quickly-shifting public attitudes towards marijuana really took a turn after Washington and Colorado voters approved legalized recreational cannabis sales. Colorado residents are also allowed to cultivate their own supply and give away up to an ounce at a time to friends. Researchers say that recent announcements from the U.S. Justice Department that states will be allowed move forward with regulating recreational and medical marijuana sales.
The study also draws a parallel between the marijuana legalization movement and the push to legalize same-sex marriages. Between 2006 and 2012 approval for marriage equality jumped from 42 percent to more than 53 percent, where it stands today.
The largest jump in support for legalizing cannabis was with independent voters, with a 12-percentage point increase over the last year to a whopping 62 percent support. Not surprisingly, Republicans remain staunchly opposed, with only 35 percent agreeing that marijuana should be legal – up a whole two percentage points from the year before. The other large group still against marijuana legalization is the 65 and older crowd, with 53 percent still thinking that having some hippie lettuce should be a crime.
Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project which pushed legislation in Colorado and has lobbied for similar bills in other states, said the poll shows what most of us already knew: it is only a matter of time.
“The dramatically increasing support for making marijuana legal should come as no surprise. Marijuana prohibition has been an abject failure,” Kampia said in a press release. “Most Americans realize it is unjust, wasteful, and counterproductive to invest in the criminalization of adults for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol. It is time for Congress to take this issue head on. It should no longer be considered scary or troublesome to speak out in support of more sensible marijuana policies. We need to put marijuana prohibition behind us, and our leaders need to step up to move things forward.”