The majority of Americans continue to support the legal use of marijuana, a new poll has found. The survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, noted that support for legalization has risen among every age group in the past decade except for people 70 and over.
The millennial generation, comprising of Americans ages 18-34, were the biggest supporters, with 68 percent falling on the pro-pot side of the survey.
The numbers show a dramatic increase in public support for the rationalization of drug laws. When the poll was first conducted in 1969, an overwhelming 84 percent of respondents opposed legal marijuana, with only 12 percent in favor. The gap gradually closed over the ensuing decades, until 2013 when 52 percent of people responded in favor of legalization, the first time a majority had said yes to weed. Last year, the percent in favor weighed in at 54 percent.
This year’s survey also asked people why they answered pro or con. Among those in favor, 41 percent cited the medical benefits of marijuana, 38 percent said it wasn’t as dangerous as other drugs, 27 percent wanted tax revenue, 12 percent thought prohibition is too expensive and 9 percent thought people should be able to do it if they want to.
“The more that people learn about marijuana and look at the benefits of legalization, the more likely they are to support reform,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said to the Huffington Post. “Our opponents sure do have a lot to say about what they see as the benefits of continuing prohibition, but voters don’t want to hear it.”
Other recent polls have had similar results. The General Social Survey, CNN, CBS News and NBC News / Wall Street Journal have all conducted surveys over the past few years that found majority support for legalization.
Pew notes that some groups still oppose legal marijuana use. Among Republicans, for example, only 39 percent are in favor of legalization, and only 29 percent of the Silent Generation, ages 70-87, is on board. Those opposed to legalization tended to cling to outdated and disproven rationales, claiming that marijuana is bad for society and is a dangerous, addictive drug that needs to be policed.
Other results of the poll included 62 percent of Americans who said they don’t want people smoking in public, although only 15 percent would be annoyed by people indulging in the privacy of their homes. Just under half of Americans have tried marijuana, 12 percent in the last year, and nearly 70 percent of respondents believe that alcohol is more harmful than pot.
Marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in four states plus Washington D.C., although it is strictly prohibited by federal law. Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they didn’t think that the federal government should enforce its laws in legal states.
Congress is currently considering a bill which would move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substance Act, which would not legalize it but would remove some of the restrictions on consumption.
As more states come out in favor of legalization with no signs of the public health crises that opponents predicted, public stigma should continue to fade about the use of marijuana for medical, spiritual, recreational or whatever other purposes people chose to use it for.