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Legalizing cannabis: A record number of Americans are in favor of legalization
by Dessy Pavlova · June 06, 2022
The number of Americans who support legalizing cannabis, which has been steadily increasing for decades, has reached record numbers in recent years, as evidenced by the growing list of states who have already legalized recreational use at the state level. 37 states have so far legalized cannabis for medical purposes, and 18 have legalized recreational use. From blue states like New Jersey, to red states like Mississippi, support for cannabis for medical and/or recreational purposes has gained bi-partisan momentum.
Support for legalizing cannabis doubled from 2010 to 2019, and while some age and political divides persist, with older and more conservative people tending to oppose cannabis legalization in greater numbers, the shift towards more positive attitudes towards the plant continues to gain momentum across the political landscape. For example, while Republicans, in general, appear to be less inclined to support legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes, 60% of moderate or liberal Republicans favor new laws to protect both medical and recreational use, and only 12% of Republicans over all age groups think cannabis should be illegal.
The first year when a majority of Americans supported legalizing cannabis was 2013. According to a recent Gallup poll, a record 68% of Americans are now in favor of legalizing cannabis and bringing it into the mainstream. Americans still unsure about the recreational side recognize the potential benefit of medical cannabis, with 31% feeling it should be legal while recreational should remain illegal, according to a Pew Research Poll. Only 8% of Americans in the same survey believed cannabis should be illegal in all circumstances. Reflecting this openness to medical cannabis, states that have been slow to embrace the change and have not legalized recreational cannabis have nevertheless enacted laws protecting medical cannabis use.
Federal laws continue to treat marijuana the same as cocaine and heroin, perpetuating a war on drugs that has destroyed families, ruined futures, incarcerated countless people for simple possession, and disproportionately harmed people of color. The last bill to pass in the Democratically-led House of Representatives failed to even reach the Senate floor for debate, and the most recent effort by pro-legalization Democrats will likely fail as well. It remains to be seen how large the majority of Americans who support legal weed must be before a conservative Senate takes cannabis legalization seriously, or if public opinion will have any effect at all. It is in this chamber where, if the Republicans manage to take control in the midterm elections, conservative anti-drug policies and free enterprise principles will come into conflict.
The cannabis industry made $18 Billion in sales in 2020, a major source of new revenue for states that have legalized it, which may tempt some lawmakers to reconsider their reservations. As a business-friendly party, it would only make sense to at the very least enact new laws protecting those cannabis businesses operating legally at the state level whose banking needs are hindered by current federal regulations.
What other states will be bringing forward legalization in 2023