Poll: 50% of Americans -- a record high -- favor legal marijuana
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.
Image: A participant holds up a bag of marijuana during the first day of Seattle's Hempfest 2011. Credit: Joshua Trujillo / AP