A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University revealed that the vast majority of Americans support legal cannabis – a particularly significant finding given the current political climate and federal government’s contrasting opinion on the topic.
The poll, released in February, revealed that 71 percent of voters believe the following:
“The government should not enforce federal laws against marijuana in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use.”
The most interesting part of this statistic? Voters in every age group and political affiliation reported this opinion; it seems that these days the support for legalizing cannabis crosses party lines and all age gaps.
To add more fuel to the fire of cannabis reform, this poll dug even deeper into voters’ opinions on cannabis, producing a key statistic on the current cannabis climate in the United States. When asked if marijuana should be made legal (not just medical marijuana – all marijuana uses, in every state), 59 percent of voters were in support. That means that the majority of Americans are now in support of fully legalized cannabis. While only 41 percent of voters identifying as Republicans and 49 percent of voters over the age of 65 were in support, this is still a huge vote of confidence for the general American climate on cannabis.
However, this majority opinion didn’t develop overnight. Let’s delve into the significance of this particular poll result by looking at the very recent history of American opinion on cannabis regulation.
Currently, according to the February 2017 Quinnipiac poll mentioned above, American support of legalized cannabis is at 59 percent. Another poll by the General Social Survey reports that number as 60 percent, so the support of cannabis right now in the United States seems to lie right in that 59-60 percent range. However, just 11 years ago in 2006, only 35 percent of American voters were in support of legalizing cannabis. This is a huge change in such a short time, making the current percentage of Americans supporting legalized cannabis even more impressive.
This General Social Survey, similar to the Quinnipiac poll, also looked at voters’ political stance, age, race, and gender. The survey revealed that, while support ratings were lower among Republicans and in older age groups, overall the support in every demographic and political group was up compared to the percentages recorded years ago. An upward trend is a positive trend, and it is obvious that support for legalized cannabis is on the rise.
Unfortunately, the federal government does not seem to follow this upward trend. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently restated his opinion on cannabis; he reported in no uncertain terms that he intends to enforce federal regulations on cannabis, and that he does not agree with legalization. This is unsettling news to many in the cannabis industry with lives and savings deeply invested into their businesses, which are legal in their home states but, technically, still illegal on the federal level. However, with the rate at which the cannabis industry is creating jobs and stimulating the economy – predicted to be as many as 250,000 by 2020 – combined with the ever-increasing positive public perception of cannabis, it seems to be in the government’s best interests to reconsider its stance.
Overall, the current American public climate towards legalizing cannabis is very positive, and it is only getting better. Just since 2016, the overall support for legal cannabis has increased from 57 percent to 59-60 percent, reflecting a public eager for change and for more progressive legislation. Hopefully the federal government, while several steps behind this ever-supportive public opinion on cannabis, will come to recognize and address the needs of its constituency. With increasing support every year, it can only be a matter of time before voters are able to instigate change with their voices and with their votes. Legal cannabis is on the forefront of political hot topics, and change is on the horizon.