Record-High 50% of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana

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Source: “Health Canada to Review Controversial Medical Marijuana Law,” www.frenchtribune.com, Sep. 29, 2011

50% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana use according to an Oct. 17, 2011 Gallup poll. 46% of respondents oppose legalization and 3% have no opinion. The record-high support for legalization is up from 46% in Gallup’s Oct. 28, 2010 poll. When Gallup first posed the question in Oct. 1969, 12% of Americans supported legalization and 84% opposed it.

According to Gallup’s survey of 1,005 adults, support for legalizing marijuana use is highest among liberals (69%) and 18-29 year olds (62%). Support drops among those aged 65+ (31%) and conservatives (34%). More men support marijuana legalization (55%) than women (46%). The South is the only US region that does not support legalization (44%).

The poll came out three days after the California Medical Association (CMA), the state’s largest physician group, became the first statewide medical association to endorse the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis.

Dr. Donald Lyman, the physician who authored the CMA’s new policy, explained that the policy shift is not because the CMA now believes that cannabis is of medical value, but because the costs of criminalization are too great. “It’s an uncomfortable position for doctors,” he said. “It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for.”

CMA’s call for legalizing marijuana rankled California’s top law enforcement agency. “I wonder what they’re smoking,” said John Lovell, spokesman for the California Police Chiefs Assn. “Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana – how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence – it’s just an unbelievably irresponsible position.”

An Oct. 28, 2010 Gallup poll found that 70% of Americans favored allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical conditions. Other national polls in 2010 found support for medical marijuana ranging from 60% to 81%. 16 states currently allow medical marijuana and six states have pending legislation to legalize medical marijuana.

Sources:

Anthony York, “California Medical Assn. Calls for Legalization of Marijuana,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 15, 2011

Frank Newport, “Record-High 50% of Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana Use,” www.gallup.com, Oct. 17, 2011