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Poll: Majority favors pot legalization
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
WASHINGTON — For the first time, a clear majority of Americans (58 percent) says marijuana should be legalized, according to a Gallup poll.
This is in sharp contrast to the first time Gallup asked the question in 1969, when only 12 percent favored legalization, according to the report on Gallup Politics.
Public support for legalization more than doubled in the 1970s, growing to 28 percent. It then plateaued during the 1980s and 1990s before inching steadily higher since 2000, reaching 50 percent in 2011.
A sizable percentage of Americans (38 percent) this year admitted to having tried the drug, which may be a contributing factor to greater acceptance, the article stated.
Success at the ballot box in the past year in Colorado and Washington might have increased Americans’ tolerance for marijuana legalization, it stated.
Support for legalization has jumped 10 percentage points since last November, and the legal momentum shows no sign of abating. Last week, California’s second-highest elected official, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said that pot should be legal in the Golden State, and advocates of legalization are poised to introduce a statewide referendum in 2014 to legalize the drug.
The Obama administration has been flexible on the matter. Despite maintaining the government’s firm opposition to legalizing marijuana under federal law, in late August, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the Justice Department would not challenge the legality of Colorado’s and Washington’s successful referendums, provided that those states maintain strict rules
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regarding the drug’s sale and distribution.
The movement to legalize marijuana mirrors the relatively recent success of the movement to legalize gay marriage, which is legal in 14 states. Public support for gay marriage, which Americans also overwhelmingly opposed in the past, has increased dramatically, reaching majority support in the last two years.
Independents’ growing support for marijuana legalization has mostly driven the jump in Americans’ overall support, the article stated. Sixty-two percent of independents now favor legalization, up 12 points from November 2012. Support for legalization among Democrats and Republicans saw little change. Yet there is a marked divide between Republicans, who still oppose legalizing marijuana, and Democrats and independents.
Americans 65 and older are the only age group that still opposes legalizing marijuana, the article stated. Still, support among this group has jumped 14 percentage points since 2011.
In contrast, 67 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 back legalization. Clear majorities of Americans aged 30 to 64 also favor legalization.
Americans’ support for legalization accelerated as the new millennium began. This acceptance of a substance that most people might have considered forbidden in the late 1960s and 1970s may be attributed to changing social mores and growing social acceptance, the article stated. 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, also may have contributed to Americans’ growing support.
Whatever the reasons for Americans’ greater acceptance of marijuana, it is likely that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts across the United States, according to Gallup Politics. Advocates of legalizing marijuana say taxing and regulating the drug could be financially beneficial to states and municipalities nationwide. But detractors such as law enforcement and substance abuse professionals have cited health risks including an increased heart rate, and respiratory and memory problems.
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, the article added.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 3-6 on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.