Study Says A Clear Majority Now Favors Legalizing Marijuana

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Gary Parrish smokes marijuana in a glass pipe just after midnight Thursday at the Space Needle in Seattle. TED S. WARREN / AP

A Pew Research Center report says that, for the first time in 40 years, a poll conducted last month reveals the majority of Americans favor marijuana legalization.  The number jumped 11 points since 2010, to 52 percent, with 45 percent against it. 

And, 77 percent of those polled recognize the validity of medical marijuana.  The majority was smaller in 1997, when an ABC News survey reported 58 percent believed marijuana has legitimate medical uses.  

Pew released its report today, noting its researchers polled 1,501 adults between March 13-17.  Public opinion has changed dramatically since 1969, when a Gallup study found only 12 percent were in favor. 

The Pew study reflects not only attitude changes but new laws that decriminalize the drug and that allow it to be used for medical reasons.  New Jersey is one of 18 states that now have medical marijuana despite a federal ban on the substance. 

And the respondents had something to say about that federal ban too.  Seventy-two percent said "government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth.  And 60 percent say that the federal government should not enforce federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in states where it is legal," the report says. 

Currently, only Colorado and Washington legalize the drug outright. 

The study also found interesting differences in opinion between the generations, which some believe means that one day marijuana will become legal in many more places.  Sixty-five percent of Millennials - those who are 18-32 - favor legalization, up from 36 percent in 2008.  And half of the Baby Boomers are now on board, up from 17 percent in 1990. 

Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1980, are in favor, by 54 percent, up from 28 percent in 1994.  

 


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