Poll: Marijuana Legalization Pulls Majority Support, Surged Over Decades

As Colorado continues to rake in tax revenue from marijuana sales, more and more Americans are coming around to the idea that legalizing weed isn’t such a bad idea. A new CNN poll out Tuesday shows 55 percent of Americans favoring recreational marijuana legalization, compared with 44 percent who oppose it. That’s the second poll showing majority support for ending marijuana prohibition after a Gallup poll from October had Colorado-style laws pulling 58 percent approval.

This represents something of a sea change in public attitudes about weed, and the growth in support over the last couple of decades is staggering. In 1987, only 16 percent (!) of people thought marijuana should be legal. That number rose to 26 percent ten years later and 35 percent in 2002. In other words, while public attitudes have steadily been moving in favor of marijuana since the mid-80s, this change has occurred more rapidly over the last decade than in decades prior. The share of people who think that marijuana is morally wrong has shrunk by half, from 70 percent in 1987 to 35 percent today.

However, this increased acceptance of marijuana isn’t universal. As one might expect, there are wide disparities in approval between age groups: Two-thirds of people between 18 and 34 think marijuana should be legalized, whereas only 39 percent of people over the age of 65 share that sentiment.

Weed advocates also have a long way to go to international acceptance of the drug. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level in almost every country on Earth, with Uruguay and North Korea (yes, North Korea) being two notable exceptions.

Anti-marijuana attitudes were on full display over the weekend, when Sweden’s justice minister linked to an article about marijuana-related deaths on Facebook as justification for her hardline anti-drug policies. The fact that the article was satire — nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose — apparently didn’t get cause her to rethink her position.

But in the U.S., pro-weed attitudes are continuing unabated: On Wednesday, New York will become the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana, and even the ultra-conservative National Review now opposes marijuana prohibition.

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