The Pew Research Center recently released a new study that gathered together survey results that focus on Americans and their attitudes toward cannabis. From whether cannabis should be legal to ending penalties for those convicted of cannabis possession, the survey offers insights into the changing attitudes when it comes to America and marijuana.
The following are the seven main points reported by Pew in its report.
Most Americans Think Marijuana Should Be Legal
About 9 of 10 Americans say officials should make marijuana legal for medical or recreational use, according to an October 2022 survey. Also, 88% of adults say either cannabis should be legal for medical and recreational use (59%), or it should be legal for medical use only (30%). Only one out of every 10 people think the drug should not be legal in any form.
Legalization Support Comes From Across the Political Parties
Perhaps one of the least surprising findings about America and marijuana, given the divisions on so many other issues, is that support for legalization differs by age, political party, race and ethnicity. Pew reports that those 75 and older are far less likely than young adults to support legalization. Only three in 10 adults 75 and older say cannabis should be legal for recreational and medical use, compared with 53% of adults 65 to 74. By contrast, 72% of adults under 30 say they support medical and recreational legalization.
Also, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are more likely than Republicans and GOP leaners to support legalization for both recreational and medical use (73% vs. 45%).
Support Has Increased Dramatically Over the Years
In 2019, two-thirds of all American adults said they support cannabis legalization for medical and recreational use. That’s double the number from a similar survey in 2000 done by Gallup.
Less Than Half of All Americans Have Used Cannabis
Less than half of American adults – 46% – say they have used cannabis. By comparison, 78% report having used alcohol and 57% have used tobacco products. Also, 19% of adults in 2021 said they had used cannabis in the past year, while 13% had used it in the past month.
Everyone Has Their Reasons On Both Sides
Supporters and opponents of marijuana legalization cite different reasons for their views. Those who favor cannabis legalization cite two reasons as especially important: the potential for health benefits from cannabis and the idea that legalizing cannabis will free up law enforcement to focus on reducing other crimes.
Those who oppose legalization cite as one of their most important reasons for opposition a fear that legalization will increase car accidents involving drivers who use marijuana (studies have shown this may not be the case). Another reason cited by opponents is that legalization would lead to more people using stronger and more addictive drugs (this gateway theory has also long been debunked).
Most Americans Want to Remove Penalties for Cannabis Possession
Most Americans support easing penalties for cannabis convictions. About two-thirds favor releasing people from prison who are held for marijuana-related offenses only. About 61% of adults support expunging marijuana-related offenses from criminal records. That’s been one of the biggest changes about America and marijuana in the past few years.