Record-high 50% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana use
October 17th, 2011
03:21 PM ET

Record-high 50% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana use

By Frank Newport, Gallup

PRINCETON, NJ - A record-high 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal.

When Gallup first asked about legalizing marijuana, in 1969, 12% of Americans favored it, while 84% were opposed. Support remained in the mid-20s in Gallup measures from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but has crept up since, passing 30% in 2000 and 40% in 2009 before reaching the 50% level in this year's Oct. 6-9 annual Crime survey.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States." The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009 found that "16.7 million Americans aged 12 or older used marijuana at least once in the month prior to being surveyed, an increase over the rates reported in all years between 2002 and 2008."

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The advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws claims that marijuana is the third-most-popular recreational drug in America, behind only alcohol and tobacco. Some states have decriminalized marijuana's use, some have made it legal for medicinal use, and some officials, including former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, have called for legalizing its use.

A Gallup survey last year found that 70% favored making it legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana in order to reduce pain and suffering. Americans have consistently been more likely to favor the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes than to favor its legalization generally.

Younger Americans Most in Favor of Legalizing Marijuana

Support for legalizing marijuana is directly and inversely proportional to age, ranging from 62% approval among those 18 to 29 down to 31% among those 65 and older. Liberals are twice as likely as conservatives to favor legalizing marijuana. And Democrats and independents are more likely to be in favor than are Republicans.

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More men than women support legalizing the drug. Those in the West and Midwest are more likely to favor it than those in the South.

Support for Legalizing Use of Marijuana, by Subgroup, October 2011

Bottom Line

Support for legalizing marijuana has been increasing over the past several years, rising to 50% today - the highest on record. If this current trend on legalizing marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation's laws into compliance with the people's wishes.

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Topics: Drugs • United States

soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Finally! As the old die and the younger get older the inevitable will happen.

    End prohibition!

    October 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • joe Jones

      I can buy beer legally, but I can't smoke some weed?

      October 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Reply
    • zenshaman

      yes, making a plant illegal is preposterous. however, the prison industrial complex needs food. my opinion and your opinion, and the public at larges' opinion count for nothing. we are slaves serving a system of death and corruption. period.

      October 18, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply
      • Michael Smeltzer

        That's about to change over the next few years, and I'll add in the 99% favor.

        October 22, 2011 at 7:22 am |
    • Ben James

      Zero deaths from pot use in the history of the planet, Zero, none, not one. The safest of all recreational drugs, much safer the alcohol or tobacco that both KILL thousands of people in the US every year and yet pot it is still illegal. You can buy pot products galore (pipes, water pipes, vaporizers, rolling papers) on (I recommend the Arizer Extreme vaporizer, pure heaven Amazon for $160) but it's still not legal???? Everything about pot use is mainstream except the law.

      October 18, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Reply
    • Ben James

      I am a 55 year old male, electronics engineer, owner and founder of a successful small business (my current profession), parent, sponsor of little league and soccer teams, community volunteer for homeless services, LIFE LONG POT SMOKER, I guess i should go to jail! Here's my wrists, put the cuff on.

      October 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Reply

      You can tell just by looking at the graph how the information age has pushed this. With no internet in the 70's or 80's propaganda was the only available information along with the geezers that spoke it. Now with the truth about alcohol and cigarettes out in the open, marijuana is finally getting some of the respect it deserves. I dont care if its legal or not. I dont have to take drug tests for my job and I'm not risky with transportation so lets relax and have a toke!

      December 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  2. chuckles

    PRAISE ALLAH,JESUS, AND PEANUTS!!! seriously stop putting kids into the corrupt criminal justice system, because your afraid of them thinking outside the box. weed isnt harmless, but it damn sure isnt harmful enough to warrant this kind of BS for the amount of time we've put up with this infringment of our freedom of choice.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Reply
    • Vykingwulf

      AMEN Chuckles. It is sad that in some states people convicted of the Three Strikes Law for getting caught smoking pot is serving 20+ yr.s in prison while child molesters can be set free as early as nine months, without treatment! We burdern the prison system so much they let ACTUAL prisoners go early to make room for people busted for marijuana related crimes. Also, the criminal court is so overburdened with these cases. Legalize it, tax it like alcohol and cigarettes with the same regulations and set free the smokers, growers and sellers, provided they only were busted for marijuana.

      October 18, 2011 at 9:55 am | Reply
  3. Mark Thompson

    We're almost there. Keep up the fight. It WILL happen. Soon everyone will realize that those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them...can you say prohibition?

    October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Reply
  4. Harry J. Anslinger

    Support is increasing steadily, just in time for 2012. 5 states (possibly 6) will have legalization on ballot. Voter turnout will be huge especially for the youth (our strongest demographic). It's time to legalize it!!! OUR TIME IS NOW!!!

    October 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  5. James Reed

    Old people vote more, so I guess Obama has pinned his hopes on the old folks for next years election

    October 17, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Reply
  6. Mike Parent

    As an Independent, I have to say that seeing a 35% opposition, surprised me. Only 1 in three supports personal freedoms over political dogma, pathetic.
    Only 1 candidate has the courage to support or endorse legalization.
    Dems and Reps, different pages from the same bad book!

    October 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  7. Michelle G

    I use to work in a treatment facility for chemically addicted teens and let me tell you, the people that say that marijuana is harmless or "safe" are mistaken. It can mess up your life just as much as any other drug.

    That being said, I still strongly support the legalization of marijuana and all drugs for the simple fact that making them illegal doesn't make one bit of difference. All it does is waste huge amounts of government resources that could be used for better causes. Making drugs illegal actually causes a huge barrier in treatment of addiction so if the goal is to get people off drugs and have a healthy safe society, then these things need to be legal. May sound counter-intuitive, but I think it's the truth.

    Not to mention that prescribed medications are, in my opinion, a much bigger problem than any of the "bad"/illegal drugs out there. So as long as doctor's can hand you all kinds of opiates or amphetamines, then why can't they hand you majiuana?

    I'd like to see America ween itself off all drugs, legal or illegal but if people want to screw themselves up, that should be their choice, so long as they are not harming other people or property.

    October 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Reply
    • 100% ETHIO STRONGER!

      Forget it. It is good to be true.

      October 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Reply
    • joe Jones

      You can hit a joint 4 or 5 times and be high for an hour. Like anything if you do it 24/7 it will mess you up. You're not hung over. You can still operate a car. Alcohol is a problem because there arev beer joints everywhere.

      October 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Reply
    • casualty

      What you were dealing with was a very low percentage of actual users. The worst of the worst. I take huge amounts of hash oil every night because of an old back injury and I am still able to go to college and make the Dean's list in Computer Science. It has no detrimental effects on my ability to perform or learn.

      October 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Reply

    Since the first legal Poison has been Manufactured by Phil Morris, we lost most of our talents in their Young ages.
    Now, I am afraid to mention who is behind this, another legal poison bill sent to the Congress to make it Law.
    Well, since some Congresses are Pot Heads, for sure it will get a speedy Majority votes.

    We can't afford to be Pot Heads, we want be SMART heads responsibly.

    October 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Reply
    • tommas

      Cannabis is not even a drop in the bucket compared to tobacco and alcohol. Its illegality is the only thing that makes it an issue.

      October 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Reply
    • Mike Parent

      Your post sounds like it is right from the Minister of Propaganda's Office. Smart how, like Carl Sagan, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama smart? BTW, did you read your post, before posting it? LOL
      Dems and Reps, different pages from the same bad book!

      October 18, 2011 at 8:43 am | Reply
    • RJ888

      My name is 100% Ethio Stronger and I like to A.)Impose my values on people B.)Pick and choose freedoms!

      October 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • conservative high guy

      MJ is an herb indigenous to lands all across Earth, blossoming in a variety of species with genetic combinations unique to each location. The plant has a variety of uses throughout history, not only as a ritual and tradition in many cultures but it was traded right here in America as a cash crop for the settlers..

      The bottom line is if more people were educated on the specific herbs and their effects, how to safely cultivate the flower and the proper uses medicinally, the results would be nothing but positive. Besides, the plant itself is non-toxic. Problem with most marijuana grown for profit is it is not done under favorable conditions and is the quality of the plant suffers. Even with well grown MJ the end user still chooses to introduce toxins through icotine laced wraps, butane fueled liters or dirty glass with no water filtering. I recommend edibles but vaporizing is good source of intake too.

      I don't see any reason why people can't live fulfilling lives that include MJ in their lifestyle without constantly being in fear of going to jail. It makes no sense to burden taxpayers pursuing MJ users as criminals.

      50% is great progress. State by state reform is coming and eventually the feds do what is right! Soon legalization will be demanded by the working majority of middle class. As a nation we will have achieved a great level of empathy and a higher-conscious when federal legalization arrives.

      October 20, 2011 at 1:16 am | Reply
    • Mark

      Just because someone smoked pot DOES NOT MEAN THEY ABUSE IT !! Does every drinker stay drunk all day ? Why is it neigh on impossible to get you prohibitionist to stop being afraid ? Just because a person uses doesnt mean they abuse. Get it ? Someone that smokes pot is called a pot head before despite how much of how little they use. I would love all alcohol drinkers to be labeled as alcoholics as pot smokers are labeled pot heads.

      Morons !! Everywhere !! Uneducated, reactionary, scared people that believe what ever they are told about X and repeat it like parrots without ever DOING ANY OF THEIR OWN RESEARCH. You should try questioning what you have been brought up believing. It can be a very educational experience. Or, you can just repeat what you read in your high school health books and live the big lie.

      It is your right to be ignorant. It is not right for your ignorance to have an effect on my life and my personal choices of freedoms.

      October 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • Bryan "THE POT HEAD" ha ha

      Pot doesn't make you stupid at all, it is shown to actually stimulate brain cell activity, and the theory that pot kills your brain cell is from this old test on monkey subjects where they would suffocate them with POT smoke. Any living thing with out oxygen from about 5 mins would already show brain cell diminishment. How could you be so scared to legalize something that has killed no one....sheesh and forreal still be soo ignorant

      March 1, 2012 at 1:00 am | Reply
  9. Kens

    Please contact your representatives. Register and VOTE out anyone who won't support legalization. This plant can save our economy and make us a healthier country. www dot NORML dot org for more info.

    October 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Reply
    • Priya

      A challenge: You want pot ilgalel? I’ve yet to hear a reason it should be and alcohol shouldn’t. Whether it is or not a challenge, I take it.First of all I must point out that I am in favor of legalizing pot and any naturally growing substances.. There may even be some biblical reference to fruits of the land and sea are made available to man ; I'm not sure; just heard from some pot-dude. W.O.R.M. I'm sure can tell us for certainty.And secondly I must point out that I have a glass of wine with me now, not a doob. Why not a doob? Not because it's ilgalel or because I don't have a connection; I just don't like it. It's not my thing. And probably couldn't write this after ingesting a doob.Alcohol. Humm, some drink anything..for the buzz. However, most, no stats to reference just my gut, are in it for the full, deeper experience. This week I spent $590 on 8 bottles of wine, saved 20%, and the wine is kept for me at my favorite steak house, waiting for me. Even if they run out of my favorite wine, and they will, I have 8 of them in my personal wine box to enjoy with 8 wonderful meals over the next year. I can't imagine having a steak without a nice red. It's just not the same.I also like the buzz, but not at any cost. Downing a cheep bottle of anything is not my game. What's the mood? Something refreshing vodka or gin tonic; very picky on the vodka and the gin. Something sweet vodka and cranberry juice with lime. Something tart .BillyRitta! I could go on.The alcohol experience has depth; connoisseurs that enjoy the sophisticated experience; some while falling down.Pot; again no stats, just my gut feeling, is made up of 99% get me high . There are few connoisseurs of pot.For many, alcohol is an art to be enjoyed beyond the obvious buzz.For many, pot is a means to get the buzz, and a different buzz that many don't enjoy. Much more of an empty experience.This is why society views them differently and why the battle to legalize pot is so difficult.Now if you started on an even playing field Hey, we just discoverred alcohol and pot, should they be legal, or just one, or none? . Could one argue that one would lead to sophisticated experiences and the other just a means to get stupid? Probably not.Things are changing though. My last camping trip had some pot smokers present .and they are slowly becoming connoisseurs. Do you know the brands of pot have names now. They have different effects. What mood are you in? Want to be aware and buzzed, or want to mellow-out and sleep, or the zombie-living-dead effect. Lots of flavors and different styles await, if you're into the hydro custom harvested stuff.So my argument wont last long. Pot is getting there. And one day my argument wont hold water anymore because a history of use and sophistication is growing. But today, I'm afraid it still does. Is my argument rational? Or just explain what's going on in society.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:44 am | Reply
  10. Scott

    The government could CARE LESS what the American people want. Example: Wall Street Bailouts, ObamaCare, Iraq War, 10 years in Afganistan, etc. The people's job is to PAY TAXED so the 1% can keep lying to us about the jobs they're aren't creating. Until it is MORE PROFITABLE for pot to be legal, it will stay ILLEGAL. And if a state decides to make it legal, the Federal Government will punish them one way of another. Look at what the Federal government did to hundreds of LEGAL businesses in California that had been LEGALLY in business for years and paying taxes. Their honest businesses were CRUSHED. No, sorry stoners, pot is going to be ILLEGAL for a LONG TIME.

    October 18, 2011 at 9:57 am | Reply
  11. Italics Mine

    It simply can not go on that government arrests ONE MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR. Yet they steadfastly refuse to accommodate, yield, or allow any intrusion whatsoever to their "zero tolerance" policy. Like good old Captain Smith, they plow our ship of state through the ice filled waters with a might-makes-right mentality. And we all fall down.

    October 18, 2011 at 10:32 am | Reply
  12. Robert Pinkerton

    IIRC, the original prohibition started in Utah in 1915, not because Mexican laborers practiced the custom, but because the Utah solons saw the custom spreading to Whites. (Now the following is just speculation on my part, but consider that the LDS church is hostile to altered consciousness: Here was a mild and safe agent of altered consciousness whereof Joseph Smith did not know so he could not have proscribed it, so the Utah Legislature, in a fit of cultural derogation, made up for the oversight.)

    October 18, 2011 at 11:55 am | Reply
  13. paul

    Thank God people are coming to their senses, but it is still very disturbing that 50% of people STILL want to dictate to other people how to live their lives.

    October 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  14. Ben James

    Zero deaths from pot use in the history of the planet, Zero, none, not one. The safest of all recreational drugs, much safer the alcohol or tobacco that both KILL thousands of people in the US every year and yet pot it is still illegal. You can buy pot products galore (pipes, water pipes, vaporizers, rolling papers) on (I recommend the Arizer Extreme vaporizer, pure heaven Amazon for $160) but it's still not legal???? Everything about pot use is mainstream except the law.

    October 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  15. Ben James

    I am a 55 year old male, electronics engineer, owner and founder of a successful small business, parent, sponsor of little league and soccer teams, community volunteer for homeless services, LIFE LONG POT SMOKER, I guess i should go to jail!

    October 18, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  16. Jon

    Stop believing in polls that divide the people? Everyone wants freedom to do whatever they want as long as they dont harm anyone else. That includes stop making plants or fungi s illegal. These 50% polls are BS.

    October 18, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  17. GaneshB

    IT's Not Just Recreational Anymore !!


    October 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  18. sedefinita

    First... marijuana. Then.... heroin. Then....morphine. Then.... Helldeath.

    October 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Reply
    • Mike Parent

      That is propaganda right out of the prohibitionist handbook. BTW, BULLETIN, morphine is legal, TODAY! Hell death is ignorance or worse still, blind prejudice.
      Dems and Reps, different pages from the same bad book!'

      October 18, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Reply
  19. Mr. Darrell Stephen Rinehart-Nebgen

    Why not doing our jobs and sending them court ordered to drug rehab.

    October 20, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Reply
    • big_nick2012

      no, all your doin is tryin to make a buck, when all in all the nation is wasting so much money proccessing, and imprisoning people for a stupid cause. and fyi, you cant rehabilitate some one thats doing something that is no way at all addicting.

      November 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  20. Paul Pot

    I have been waiting for this day for thirty years.
    Finally we are the majority.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Reply
  21. Trevor Lloyd

    Marijuana.... safer than peanuts.... put it in on google images.... just sayin.

    October 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  22. Jeff

    I think marijuana should be legal to grow for anyone. It would be cheaper for health insurance and for the people who need medical marijuana. It would also save us a ton of money trying to keep it out of the country , not to mention the loss to criminal activity involved and sending people to jail for a minor problem. Unfortunately, I don't think that will happen. Everyone wants to make money off of it. So, it will be mass produced by tobacco companies and taxed by our government. If that is the plan, it doesn't really matter one way or the other.

    December 2, 2011 at 2:38 am | Reply
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