The Pew Research Center’s most recent poll regarding marijuana legality reveals a noteworthy shift in American attitudes. Back in 2009, just four years ago, 52% of polled adults said marijuana use should not be legal. Now only 42% are against legalization with 54% saying they are in favor.
When researchers dug deeper with more questions about legalization specifics, 83% of respondents said they would approve of some form of legalization. This broke down to 44% of respondents saying only medical marijuana should be legal, and 39% of respondents saying recreational should be legal as well. Just 16% of respondents said cannabis should not be legal in any form.
Pew’s researchers called 1,891 adults across the US in February, at a time when Colorado’s first days of legalized recreational sales were still very much in the media.
The researchers also asked, if marijuana were as widely available as alcohol is, which would be more harmful to people’s health and society? Only 15% of people polled felt cannabis was harmful to health, and 23% said it would be harmful to society. To put this in perspective, alcohol received far worse marks, with 69% saying it was harmful to health and 63% saying it was harmful to society.
However, being in favor of legalization does not necessarily mean being in favor of public smoking. 63% of Americans said they would be bothered by people using the drug in public, while just 15% cared if people use marijuana in their homes. Only 41% said they would be bothered if a cannabis retailer opened in their own neighborhood. We suspect this data could change for the worse if more people encountered cannabis retail in areas of downtown Denver where public smoking seems to be the norm these days.
Worth noting: Americans’ attitudes toward other drugs have not shifted much since the mid 1990s. 87% of respondents described drug abuse as a crisis or serious problem in America today. 50% said drug abuse was a crisis or serious problem in their own neighborhoods and schools.