Majority of Americans Support Federal Weed Legalization, According to Three New Polls
A majority of all Americans want to see federal pot legalization become a reality, regardless of race, age, or political party.
Published on April 21, 2021

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Support for federal cannabis legalization is holding strong, according to three new polls that all indicate majority support for weed reform.

Last week, Quinnipiac University reported that a solid 69 percent of American voters want to see federal cannabis prohibition become a thing of the past. The university has been conducting annual polls on cannabis legalization since 2012, but this year's installment found the largest showing of support for legalization yet. Nine years ago, the university only saw 51 percent support for legalization, but that number grew to 61 percent by 2017, and is now pushing close to 70 percent.

This year's poll, which surveyed 1,237 adults in early April, found majority support for legalization within every single demographic. As usual, Democrats were most likely to advocate for legal weed, with 78 percent support, but a sizable 62 percent of Republicans also favor legalization. Slightly over half of adults over 65 even said they were down with legal pot, compared to 72 percent of respondents aged 50 to 64, and 78 percent of those 49 or younger.

One day later, a Pew Research Center poll reported that a shocking 91 percent of respondents were ready to embrace serious cannabis reform. Out of this total, 60 percent said they wanted to see full federal legalization, 31 percent said they were in favor of medical marijuana only, and a tiny 8 percent said they still wanted all forms of cannabis to remain illegal. This was the largest of the three polls, with 5,109 respondents.

Like the Quinnipiac poll, Pew found that every single demographic showed majority support for some kind of weed reform. Only 5 percent of Democrats said they thought weed should stay illegal, compared to 12 percent of Republicans. Almost every age, political, and racial demographic showed support for full adult-use legalization, but there were a few notable holdouts. Only 47 percent of Republicans, 43 percent of Asians, and 32 percent of seniors aged 75 or older supported recreational weed, but these three groups still showed majority support for medical pot.

On 4/20, CBS News dropped a third poll on legalization, but despite the holiday, this survey showed the lowest levels of support. Out of all respondents, only 55 percent said they thought adult-use weed should be legal in their home state, versus 42 percent who wanted pot to remain prohibited. But unlike the other two polls, this poll was conducted in early March, before New Mexico, New York, and Virginia legalized weed, which might explain the lower percentage of support. This was also the smallest of the three polls, with only 1,004 respondents.

The CBS poll did take a deeper look at opinions on specific cannabis reform issues, though. About half of all respondents said they thought legal weed is good for their state's local economy, and 59 percent said they thought states should allow non-violent former pot offenders to clear their criminal records. And strangely enough, just over half said that they thought it was unacceptable for people to openly use pot in social settings, even though most still supported overall legalization.

The pollsters also took a look at some popular myths about cannabis legalization. Only a quarter of respondents believe that legal weed increases violent crime, compared with 54 percent that said it has no effect. A third of respondents still believe in the gateway drug myth, but 45 percent said that legal weed would not lead to an increase in the use of other drugs, and 17 percent said legalization would help reduce the use of other drugs.

Several other recent polls have found that between 61 and 75 percent of Americans support legalization, and the Pew and Quinnipiac polls confirm these results. The CBS poll did show lower support, but even so, it still indicates that the majority of all Americans are ready to put an end to cannabis prohibition.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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