Americans Want Legal Weed More Than Ever

Marijuana is becoming an American right.
Marijuana is becoming an American right.
Brian Feinzimer/L.A. Weekly

Support for the legalization of recreational marijuana among likely California voters has consistently hovered around the 60 percent mark. But if you've ever been to Middle America, you know that the Golden State is often viewed as a political outlier — radical, even.

When it comes to legalization, the United States is starting to look a lot like the Left Coast. The Pew Research Center this week said its latest survey found that attitudes on legalization in America have nearly reversed compared to a decade ago, when 60 percent of U.S. adults were opposed and only 32 percent said yes to legit pot.

Pew found that 57 percent of adults favor making marijuana legal, medical or not; 37 percent said cannabis should remain as an illegal substance. "A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse," according to Pew.

You've come a long way, baby. 

Unfortunately Republicans would keep weed illegal if they had their way. Fifty-five percent of adults identifying as GOP supporters say no to legalization, according to the Pew poll. Democrats back legalization at a rate of more than two-to-one (66 percent vs. 30 percent).

A whopping 71 percent of those ages 18 to 35 want cannabis to be legalized, according to the survey. Baby boomers, who practically put weed on the pop culture map, support legalization at a rate of 56 percent to 40 percent (opposed). Those who identify themselves as conservative Republicans showed the greatest support for keeping pot verboten. The 62 percent rate for conservatives even beat out the 59 percent of 71- to 88-year-olds who say no to legalization, Pew found.

While whites and African-Americans see eye-to-eye on legalization, with 59 percent supporting it, Latinos lean toward keeping it illegal at a rate of 49 percent versus 46 percent (in favor), the survey says.

That would help explain why backers of Proposition 64, the November ballot initiative that would legalize recreational pot in California, are targeting the Latino vote as a crucial element of any victory. Latinos have surpassed whites as the largest ethnic or racial group in the Golden State.

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The results are based on a survey of 1,201 U.S. adults. Likely and registered voters tend to produce more conservative data and, arguably, lower rates of support for legalization. However, Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority, was pleased with Pew's findings.

"It’s more clear than ever which way the country is moving on marijuana," he said. "Legalization is polling much better than either presidential candidate, and politicians should do more to appeal to this growing constituency. No matter what happens in November, we know that a growing majority of Americans supports ending cannabis prohibition, and the next president and Congress need to make it a priority to finally end outdated federal prohibition laws that stand in the way of full and effective implementation of state policies."

Americans Want Legal Weed More Than Ever
Pew Research Center

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