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What Does America Think About Pot?


national cannabis coalitionNow that two states have legalized marijuana use for adults and twenty states have protections for medical use of cannabis, it is clear that American attitudes toward marijuana have changed drastically.  Here are five opinions that a majority of Americans hold toward pot, according to the latest opinion polls:

1)      Marijuana use by adults age 21 and older should be legal.

The Gallup organization made worldwide headlines last month when it proclaimed “For First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana“.  According to their latest poll, 58 percent of Americans supported legalization when asked “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?”  Indeed, this was the first time a majority supported legal marijuana in Gallup’s history of asking the question, dating back to 1969 when support was a dismal 12 percent.

However, Gallup’s was not the first poll showing majority support for legalization.  Rather than being a first or an outlier, Gallup merely confirmed what has been found in eleven polls since 2009.  Pollsters from Angus Reid Global Monitor (four polls ranging from 52% – 55%), Gallup (50% and 58%), Pew Center (52%), Public Policy Polling (58%), Rasmussen (56%), Zogby (52%), and Quinnipiac University (51%) have all discovered majority support for legalization.

Since Colorado and Washington passed marijuana legalization in 2012, only four polls have shown less than 50 percent support for legalization.  Interestingly, three come from news organizations (ABC News = 48%, CBS News = 47%, FOX News = 46%) and the other is Gallup’s 2012 poll of 48 percent that has been trumped by the 2013 poll at 58 percent.

2)      When a state legalizes marijuana, the federal government should let them.

After two states legalized recreational marijuana use, pollsters asked what the federal response should be.  A December HuffPost/YouGov poll found that 51 percent felt the feds should leave pot smokers alone in legal states.  Gallup found that 64 percent opposed the federal government taking steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in the newly-legalized states.

3)      Marijuana smokers should not be fired for off-work pot use if it is legal in their state.

This week, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll found that almost two-thirds of poll respondents – 64 percent – found it unacceptable to fire a marijuana user solely for after-hours pot smoking.  Those who found it acceptable numbered only 22 percent, with 14 percent in the “not sure” category.  Thus, for every person who thinks it is okay to fire a pot smoker, there are nearly three who find it unacceptable.

Even when the qualifier of “in a legal marijuana state” is removed from the question of whether it is acceptable to fire people for off-the-clock pot use, more people found it unacceptable than acceptable.  A plurality of 45 percent said the cannabis consumers should be able to keep their jobs, even if marijuana use is illegal, compared to the 32 percent who think it is okay to fire a pot smoker in a prohibition state, and 23 percent were “not sure”.

4)      Marijuana is definitely safer than alcohol.

As early as 2002, Zogby found that 47 percent of those surveyed believed alcohol was the most dangerous drug, followed by tobacco at 28 percent and marijuana at 20 percent.  In 2009, Rasmussen reported that 51 percent of its poll respondents agreed that marijuana was a safer substance to consume than alcohol.  In 2012, Public Policy Polling found that 45 percent of respondents felt marijuana is safer than alcohol, compared to 42 percent who disagreed and 12 percent who weren’t sure.

5)      Marijuana is medicine and patients should not be punished for choosing it.

Support for medical use of marijuana is so widespread and overwhelming it is difficult to imagine another political issue that has so much public support and so little political support.  The polling page at MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org lists twenty-eight polls dating back to 1995 with support ranging from 60 percent to 85 percent, except for one poll of the American Society for Addiction Medicine (aka: Big Rehab) that found opinions split at 36 percent for, 26 percent neutral, and 38 percent opposed.

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation


About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.



  2. There’s still a portion of people that believe that marijuana stuns your growth, makes you into a paranoid schizophrenic, and makes your left testicle shrink.

  3. There’s still a portion of people that believe that marijuana stuns your growth, makes you into a paranoid schizophrenic, and makes your left testicle shrink.

  4. Just like g a y people, if more cannabis lovers came out of the closet, there wouldn’t be many people who didn’t know someone who loved their bud. (Of course, the penalties for marijuana are a lot harsher than whatever made-up penalties the law found against g a y people.)

  5. Medical cannabis and full legalization aren’t mutually exclusive. Or rather, they don’t have to be. We’re discovering that medical dispensaries (at least the link on the chain that makes most of the money — all the links deny they’re *it*) are fighting against full legalization efforts in places like California, Oregon, and most recently in Maine. That’s no reason to deny access to sick people who need it to treat what ails them, but it is a reason to be mindful of how medical cannabis programs are set up (profit should not be a priority when setting policy) so that dispensaries don’t have millions to fund anti-legalization efforts in the name of protecting their market share.

    As for that cop in SC, the ACLU is going to eat him for breakfast. Being threatened with police action for voicing a political opinion is a textbook 1st amendment violation. The police chief would be in less trouble had he pepper-sprayed the kid.

    Everyone under 35 knows cannabis is not dangerous and that our laws concerning it are stupid. A lot of people are finding out why it was made illegal in the first place (pure, unbridled racism and xenophobia) and are spreading the word. This year, 58% of registered voters said they want it legalized, and that’s up from only *48%* last year in the exact same poll. Who knows how much it’ll be next year? The momentum just keeps building. Politicians will grow spines (or at least wise up to how they can cash in) and move on cannabis, sooner than later.

  6. Justin Rutkowski on

    I fully support Marijuana, however I seem to find two things wrong with it at this present time, one being you will go to jail for having it on you and number two being you can’t walk into a liquor store or marijuana shop and buy some good green. marijuana legalization should not only be for those people with health care that can afford to go to a doctor and be diagnosed with medical disorders that they deem worthy for some one to smoke pot. We should not be stuck with man made chemicals to treat illness, or man made drinks to get our buzz on. Right or wrong that is not for any one to judge other then god, and the good book clearly states I give unto you all seed bearing herbs. Just my two cents, more Americans then what is on record support Marijuana Legalization, plus you have to take in to account the ones whom don’t want to persecuted or tracked down for supporting it so they just say no. For instance the police chief in South Carolina threatened a citizen that they would work on tracking him down to investigate him since he thought the police shouldn’t be going after pot heads and instead needed to focus their efforts on the murder rates and real crimes…hell back in June when i caught my last set of marijuana charges the arresting officer got a search warrant for marijuana under the assumption he would find other drugs then that in my home which he didn’t just some good old reg but as he was arresting he even stated it’s just pot who cares.

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