Support For Marijuana Legalization Rises To New High

| by Ray Brown
Legal marijuana grow in ColoradoLegal marijuana grow in Colorado

Support for the legalization of marijuana has never been higher across the country, with 57 percent of adult Americans in favor of legalizing the plant, according to Pew Research.

While nearly 60 percent of Americans want to legalize marijuana, only 37 percent believe it should remain illegal, which is at its lowest point since such polls were first conducted in 1969. At that time, 84 percent of Americans believed marijuana should be illegal and only 12 percent thought it should be legal, signifying a dramatic shift in America's cultural attitude on drugs over the last half-century.

But since 1990, there has been a major shift in support of marijuana reform.

Millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 35, are the most supportive of marijuana legalization with 71 percent. But in 2006, the level of support among Millennials was lower than those who favor keeping it criminalized today at 34 percent.

Among Generation X, ages 36 to 51, and Baby Boomers, ages 52-70, the support for marijuana legalization is at about the national average: 57 and 56 percent, respectively. In 1990, support levels among these groups were a paltry 21 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Today, although support for marijuana legalization is widespread, there's a partisan difference.

Among Democrats, 66 percent want to legalize, while 30 percent favor keeping it criminalized.

But among Republicans, only 41 percent favor legalization and the majority, 55 percent, want to keep the plant illegal.

Whites and blacks are seemingly identical when it comes to their marijuana stances: 59 percent of both races favor legalization, while 36 percent of whites and 37 percent of blacks want it criminalized.

Hispanics are relatively evenly split: 46 percent favor legalization and 49 percent don't.

Although there's a clearly a shift in favor of legalization -- and 25 states have at least some form of legal medical marijuana law on the books -- the number of arrests for the drug remains high.

In 2015, law enforcement agencies made 574,641 arrests for small amounts of marijuana intended for personal use, which outnumbered arrests for all forms of violent crime, according to a report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Most people don’t think drug possession is the No. 1 public safety concern, but that’s what we’re seeing,” said Tess Borden, a fellow at ACLU and HRW, reported The New York Times.

Sources: Pew Research, The New York Times / Photo credit: Brett Levin/Flickr

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