PRINCETON, NJ — Gallup’s October Crime poll finds 44% of Americans in favor of making marijuana legal and 54% opposed. U.S. public support for legalizing marijuana was fixed in the 25% range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but acceptance jumped to 31% in 2000 and has continued to grow throughout this decade.
The highest level of support for decriminalizing the use of marijuana today is seen with self-described liberals, among whom 78% are in favor. In contrast, 72% of conservatives are opposed. Moderates are about evenly divided on whether the use of marijuana should be legal, although they tilt against it (51% vs. 46%).
Gallup also finds a generational rift on the issue, as 50% of those under 50 and 45% of those 50 to 64 say it should be legal, compared with 28% of seniors.
Public mores on legalization of marijuana have been changing this decade, and are now at their most tolerant in at least 40 years. If public support were to continue growing at a rate of 1% to 2% per year, as it has since 2000, the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years.
Americans are no more — and no less — in favor of legalizing marijuana when the issue is framed as a revenue-enhancement tool for state governments. Regardless of how the question is asked, 53% of Americans living in the West — encompassing California, where the issue could be on the ballot in 2010 — support legalization.
It’s not a question of if cannabis will be re-legalized; it is a question of when, where, and how. Stats guru Nate Silver has opined that overall support for re-legalization should top 60% by 2022/2023 independent of any other factors but the continuing movement of Baby Boomers into retirement age. However, we here at NORML don’t really want to see another 11 million arrests between now and then, so we urge all of you to contact your elected officials to help us prove Mr. Silver to be too pessimistic.