The three major national polls in America are increasingly converging on one point: Marijuana legalization is very popular in the US. The latest finding, from the recently released General Social Survey by NORC at the University of Chicago, shows that 61 percent of people supported marijuana legalization in 2018. That’s up from 57 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2000; a rapid shift in public opinion in less than two decades.
The other two big national surveys on the topic have found similar results. Gallup put support for marijuana legalization at 66 percent in 2018, up from from 60 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2000. Pew put it at 62 percent in 2018, up from 57 percent in 2016 and 31 percent in 2000. Support for legalization seems to be lower if you specify recreational marijuana. A recent survey from YouGov, for example, found that just 50 percent of Americans back recreational marijuana legalization, versus 31 percent opposition.
Still, the dramatic turnaround in public opinion helps explain why the great majority of expected and announced Democratic presidential candidates support marijuana legalization. And it explains why more states have legalized pot to varying degrees through a ballot initiative or legislature. Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels around the world.
Opponents, meanwhile, claim that legalization will enable a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to America’s experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries, which have built their financial empires in large part on some of the heaviest consumers of their products. This could result in far more people using pot, even if it leads to negative health consequences. Based on the latest polling, supporters of legalization increasingly outnumber opponents.
Frank T. Luciano has been representing people accused of marijuana related issues for over 40 years. He is a lifetime member of the legal committee for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and has been a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorney’s for many years. He is familiar with bail/detention procedures in Bergen (Hackensack), Passaic (Paterson) and Hudson (Jersey City) Counties.