The results of a new Gallup poll released last week reveal record support for cannabis policy reform in the US, with 70% of American adults surveyed saying that they believe the plant should be legal. The level of support for legalizing cannabis rose from the 68% in favor of ending prohibition recorded over the past three years, climbing to the highest point in the 54 years Gallup has been polling on the issue. Only 29% of the survey’s respondents said that cannabis should remain illegal, while 1% said they were unsure.
“The nation has reached a broad consensus on legalizing marijuana, with a full seven in 10 now supportive,” Gallup wrote in an analysis of the poll’s findings. “Not only do most US adults favor it, but so do majorities of all major political and ideological subgroups.”
The new poll, which was conducted by global public opinion research company Gallup from October 2 through October 23, showed strong support for legalizing marijuana across the political spectrum and among all demographic groups. By political affiliation, 87% of Democrats said they support legalizing cannabis, while 70% of independent voters and 55% of Republicans said the same. By ideology, 91% of liberals, 73% of moderates and 52% of conservatives said they favored ending prohibition.
Majority Support for Legalization Across Demographic Groups
Legalizing cannabis was also supported across age groups, with popularity being the strongest among young adults. Seventy-nine percent of adults aged 18-34 said they were in favor of legalizing marijuana, while 71% of those 35-54 and 64% of those aged 55 and older said they held similar views. Support by educational level was relatively consistent, with 70% of respondents with no college, 73% with some college, 66% of college graduates and 70% of post-graduates saying they support legalizing cannabis.
Regionally, people in the Midwest registered the strongest support for legalizing cannabis, with 75% of those surveyed indicating they favor legalization. In the West, 72% of respondents said they support legalizing marijuana, with 70% in the South and 64% saying the same. By racial group, 72% of people of color and 64% of non-Hispanic white adults said they favor legalization.
The latest Gallup poll was released one day after Ohio voters approved a cannabis legalization ballot measure, making the state the 24th in the nation to legalize marijuana for adults. As more states roll out legalization, those opposing reform are failing to sway the public with their calls to preserve cannabis prohibition.
“Although some health organizations and political commentators have raised concerns about the medical risks of marijuana, this hasn’t blunted the public’s desire for legalization thus far,” Gallup noted. “For now, the high level of support among younger adults suggests national backing will only expand in the years ahead, likely resulting in more states, and perhaps the federal government, moving to legalize it.”
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), noted in a statement about the latest Gallup poll that no state that has legalized cannabis has later repealed reform and returned to prohibition.
“There’s no ‘buyers’ remorse’ among the public when it comes to legalizing cannabis,” Armentano said in a statement from the cannabis policy reform advocacy group. “As more states have adopted legalization, public support for this policy has risen dramatically. That’s because these policies are largely working as intended and because voters prefer legalization and regulation over the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”
Support for Legalization Only 12% in 1969
Only 12% of respondents said they favored legalizing marijuana when Gallup first began polling on the issue in 1969. Support for legalization climbed to 50% of US adults by 2013 and rose to 58% following the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Washington and Colorado in 2012. Support grew to 68% by 2020 and remained at that level before reaching record levels in the new poll.
Bryan Barash, vice president of external affairs and deputy general counsel at online cannabis marketplace Dutchie, says that the “recent Gallup poll, paired with Ohio legalizing last week, makes it abundantly clear that there is a strong and broad consensus on legal cannabis” at the grassroots level.
“It may seem frustrating to see that our federal leaders are lagging behind the consensus of the American public, but this is a common theme in American politics,” Barash wrote in an email to Cannabis Now. “While many people envision politicians as leaders, they are far more often followers of the public will, and this poll is another proof point that the people are ready for change. It’s not a matter of if, but when, cannabis will be fully recognized federally and far more opportunity opens for our industry.”