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New Poll Finds Highest Support Ever for Weed Legalization

A majority of Republican voters favor legal marijuana. Sadly, a majority of Republicans in Congress remain opposed.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The latest General Social Survey, a widely respected trend survey that has been measuring support for legal marijuana since the 1970s, has found public support for marijuana legalization has reached a new high of 61 percent, with strong support across all age groups and political affiliations.

MANDEL NGAN | AFP | Getty Images

Following a trend identified by a Gallup poll in 2017, a majority of Republicans -- once staunchly opposed to marijuana legalization -- now favor legalization, according to the poll, which is administered by the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago. 

The General Social Survey staff found that 54 percent of the Republicans surveyed for the 2018 poll favor legalization. That's the first time a majority of Republicans favored legalization in a General Social Survey. In 2017, Gallup reported that 51 percent of those surveyed who identify as Republican supported legalization. That was the first time that had occurred in 50 years of Gallup asking about cannabis legalization.

Related: Legalization Stalls In New Jersey Legislature

Overwhelming support from Democrats.

In the new General Social Survey, 76 percent of Democrats said they favor legalization.  

It’s important to note that the General Social Survey did not ask if people favored legalization for recreational or medical marijuana. Republicans have voiced support for medical marijuana -- even President Donald Trump spoke in favor of medical marijuana in the 2016 campaign, although he’s flip flopped on the issue since.

Even with that context, support is strong across all age groups. According to the survey results published by AP, marijuana legalization is supported by:

  • 72 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34
  • 64 percent of those between the ages of 35 and 49
  • 57 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64
  • 46 percent of those 65 and older

Those over 65 are the only age group where a majority is not in favor of legalization, although obviously it’s close. That 46 percent number also is a significant increase over 2014, when only 38 percent favored legalization. At the beginning of the decade in 2010, only 29 percent favored legalization.

Related: The UN Is Moving Toward Ending Decades of International Cannabis Prohibition

What next?

Clearly, the new poll shows that the trend toward Americans supporting legalization, at least for medical marijuana, is strong among people of all ages and political persuasions, an amazing evolution since 1973, when only 19 percent of all people surveyed supported legalization in the General Social Survey.

Nonetheless, marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal drug at the federal level, along with heroin and cocaine. Justin Strekal, political director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, told AP that the survey results are a clear indication Americans are ready for legal marijuana at the national level (as was done last year in Canada).

“Our time has come,” he said. “Never in modern history has there existed greater public support for ending the nation’s nearly century-long experiment with marijuana prohibition.”

Congress already is considering national legalization, although with a Republican-controlled Senate, passage seems unlikely. Legalization also will likely become an issue in the 2020 presidential election as most Democrats in the race favor making cannabis legal at the federal level.

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