A new poll released on Tuesday shows that nearly nine out of 10 Americans believe that cannabis should be legal in some form, with a strong majority saying that recreational marijuana should be legalized for adults. The survey, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center last month, was published online on November 22 after being administered during the first half of October.
The results of the poll, which were essentially unchanged from a similar survey conducted in April 2021, showed that 88% of American adults surveyed believe that marijuana should be legalized. More than half (59%) said that medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis should be legal, while nearly a third (30%) said that cannabis should be legalized for medicinal use only. Only one in 10 respondents said that marijuana should be illegal in all cases.
Support for recreational marijuana legalization was sharply divided by the age of the poll’s respondents, with only 30% of those 75 and older believing that all forms of cannabis should be legalized. By contrast, 72% of those 18 to 29 years old said that both recreational marijuana and medical cannabis should be legalized, while 62% of respondents age 30 to 49 said the same. Just over half (54%) of adults aged 50 to 64 said both recreational and medical marijuana should be legal and 53% aged 65 to 74 agreed.
The new survey also found varying levels of support for marijuana legalization based on the political affiliation of respondents. Nearly three-fourths (73%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said that they believed that marijuana should be legal for both recreational and medical use and another 21% said that only medical marijuana should be legalized. Among liberal Democrats, 84% said both forms of cannabis should be legal, while nearly two-thirds (63%) of moderate and conservative Democrats said that they held the same view.
However, less than half (45%) of Republicans and independent voters who lean Republican said both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis should be legal, with an additional 39% saying only medical marijuana should be legalized. A majority (60%) of moderate and liberal Republicans said that both medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized, while less than four out of 10 (37%) conservative Republicans said both forms of cannabis should be legal.
The new poll was conducted after President Joe Biden announced on October 6 that he would pardon all federal convictions for simple marijuana possession and encouraged state governors around the country to take similar action. At the same time, the president directed the U.S. attorney general and the head of the Department of Health and Human Services to examine the rescheduling of cannabis under federal drug laws.
About three weeks following the completion of the survey, voters in five states decided on ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana in the November midterm elections. The legalization bids succeeded in Maryland and Missouri, while similar proposals in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota were rejected by voters.
The new Pew Research Center poll, which was conducted October 10 through 16, also identified different levels of support for marijuana legalization among different racial groups. A majority of white (60%) and Black (68%) adults were in favor of ending the prohibition on both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis. By contrast, less than half of both Hispanic (49%) and Asian (48%) respondents said that they were in favor of full legalization.
The survey’s overall results are similar to a recently released Gallup Poll that also showed strong support for legalizing marijuana. In that survey, which was taken between October 3 and October 20 and did not differentiate between medical cannabis and recreational marijuana, more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said that they favored legalization, tying a record high for the poll. A Monmouth Universtiy poll released last month showed similar support.
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