CBS Poll: Vast Majority of Americans Support Medical Cannabis

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A whopping 77 percent of Americans think seriously ill patients should be able to use marijuana for medical purposes. But most people are also highly skeptical of the current MMJ industry, expressing doubt that it is operating as intended.

These are the main findings of a new CBS News poll that provides a glimpse into how the public feels about both medical pot and marijuana legalization in general.

Although there is overwhelming support for the idea of medical marijuana (just 17 percent oppose it), a third of respondents said they believe the pot provided under state medical marijuana laws is actually going to seriously ill patients. In other words, the majority of Americans think most cannabis sold via these programs is winding up in the hands of recreational users who don’t need it to ease pain.

It comes as no surprise that the public holds this perception of the industry – whether true or not – given the fact that many dispensaries and related businesses clearly market their products to the masses. However, the poll provides the strongest evidence yet that most Americans support medical pot despite all the controversy surrounding it.

The poll, conducted from Oct. 28 to 31, also found that 40 percent of respondents think pot should be legal for any use, down from 44 percent last year but up significantly from 27 percent in a similar survey in 1979. That’s a significantly different picture than the one painted by a recent Gallup poll, which found that 50 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal. Another recent poll by a different group put support at 55 percent. It’s unclear why the differences among the polls are so high, making it difficult to determine which is the most accurate. Many industry groups, as one would expect, put more weight on the polls showing stronger support for legalization, saying that falls in line with the general trends they’ve seen.

Other findings from the CBS poll:

– Legalization has the most support (52 percent) among Americans under the age of 30 and the least among those over 65 (28 percent).

– More men than women support general cannabis legalization

– A slightly higher percentage of people in the West support legalization than in the East (48 percent vs. 45 percent)

– 70 percent of Republicans oppose legalization, while Democrats are more or less evenly split on the issue