Many states have passed legislation legalizing marijuana use, in some cases for medical purposes and in others recreationally. The federal government has not passed any similar laws. If public opinion is any gauge, the federal restrictions may change.
A new Gallup poll shows that the percentage of Americans who believe marijuana should be legal is 66%, flat with last year. However, the figure has soared over time, climbing consistently from 25% in 1995. The first period Gallup fielded the poll, in 1969, the number was a mere 12%.
Figures on approval of the legalization of marijuana vary little from group to group. The Gallup report states: “There are essentially no meaningful differences in support for legal marijuana by gender, education, income, region and urban/suburban/rural residence — between 60% and 70% of subgroup members within those categories favor legalization.” The picture changes when “ideology and political parties are taken into account. While 82% of liberals favor legalization, only 48% of conservatives do. Among Republicans, 51% favor, while among Democrats, the number is 76%. Age is another factor. Eighty-one percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 years old favor legalization. Only 49% of people 65 and older do.”
The divide along religious lines may be the largest. According to Gallup, “Americans who attend religious services on a weekly basis are among the subgroups least likely to say marijuana should be made legal, with just 42% in favor. That compares with more than three-quarters of those who seldom or never attend church (77%) and 63% of those who attend occasionally.”
Since state politicians make the key decisions about legalization, it is hard to use the Gallup data except for directionally. The number of states that have legalized marijuana grows by the year. That shows no sign of stopping.
Finally, marijuana is a big business and several companies in the industry are worth billions of dollars.
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