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Poll: 50% of Americans -- a record high -- favor legal marijuana

October 17, 2011 |  4:14 pm

Marijuana
Slowly but surely, Americans seem to be making peace with the pot pipe.

According to a poll released by Gallup on Monday, 50% of Americans surveyed say marijuana use should be legal — up from 46% last year. This year, 46% percent said it should be illegal.

Those numbers mean that, for the first time in the poll's 42-year-history, Americans who say that marijuana should be legal outnumber those who say it should be illegal.

Societal acceptance of marijuana has come a long way since 1969, when Gallup first posed the question "Should marijuana use be legal?" Back then, only 12% of Americans favored legalization of the drug. From the '70s through the mid-'90s, support remained in the 20s, but it has been climbing steadily since 2002.

Some interesting results from the most recent poll:

  • Men are more likely to support legalizing marijuana than women (55% vs. 46%).
  • People in the West are more likely to support it than people in the East (55% vs. 51%).
  • People ages 18-29 are twice as likely to support marijuana use as people 65 or older (62% vs. 31%).

The findings come less than six months after the federal government ruled that marijuana should remain classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means the government considers it as dangerous as heroin.  

In June, Michele M. Leonhart, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said that marijuana would remain classified as Schedule 1 because it "has a high potential for abuse" and "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

That now appears slightly out of step with what most Americans think. A Gallup survey last year found that 70% of people favored making it legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana to reduce pain and suffering.

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--Deborah Netburn

Image: A participant holds up a bag of marijuana during the first day of Seattle's Hempfest 2011. Credit: Joshua Trujillo / AP

 

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