CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
January 6th, 2014
08:00 PM ET
8 months ago

CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring

Washington (CNN) - In a major turnaround from past decades, a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also indicated that the number of people who say smoking pot is morally wrong has plunged.

Fifty-five percent of those questioned nationally said marijuana should be made legal, with 44% disagreeing.

The CNN/ORC findings are similar to a Gallup poll conducted in October.

According to the CNN poll and numbers from General Social Survey polling, support for legalizing marijuana has steadily soared over the past quarter century - from 16% in 1987 to 26% in 1996, 34% in 2002, and 43% two years ago.

The survey found interesting divides on the issue.

"There are big differences on age, region, party ID, and gender, with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Two-thirds of those 18 to 34 said marijuana should be legal, with 64% of those 34 to 49 in agreement.

Half of those 50 to 64 believe marijuana should be legal, but that number dropped to 39% for those age 65 and older.

Support stood at 60% in the Northeast, 58% in the West, 57% in the Midwest, but just 48% in the South. Sixty-two percent of Democrats and 59% of Independents, but just 36% of Republicans, backed legalizing marijuana. Fifty-nine percent of men but just 51% of women supported making pot legal.

Attitudes have dramatically changed

Why has support for legalizing marijuana tripled since the 1970s and 1980s?

"Attitudes toward the effects of marijuana and whether it is morally wrong to smoke pot have changed dramatically over time," said Holland. "That also means that marijuana use is just not all that important to Americans any longer."

In 1972, about a year after President Richard Nixon declared drugs "public enemy Number One," 65% said the use of marijuana was a very serious problem for the United States. Now that is down to 19%.

The number who said marijuana is a gateway drug (47%), is down 23 points since 1972. The number who said marijuana is addictive (50%), is down 10 points. And the number who said marijuana is physically harmful (43%) is down 23 points.

"Clearly there are some reservations about marijuana, but not the widespread fear that existed during the original War on Drugs in the 1970s," added Holland.

The biggest change indicated by the poll reflected the number of people who said smoking pot is morally wrong. In 1987, 70% said it was, making it a sin in the minds of more Americans than abortion or pornography.

Now, that number has been halved - just 35% today said smoking marijuana is morally wrong.

Widespread agreement that it is not morally wrong may be one of the bigger drivers of the pro-legalization movement.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International, from January 3-5, with 1,010 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

soundoff (503 Responses)
  1. Christian

    Why would it be morally wrong to partake of a plant that God himself created? After all isn't he the one who said "Every seed bearing plant on the face of the earth I give to be your food". He made no prohibition against the use of any form of plant life. Everything that God created is good and is to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth (1 timothy 4). And if it is being discovered that it helps alleviate suffering and a variety of medical issues why would we deprived our fellow man the use of such a beneficial plant?

    January 7, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Sniffit

    "CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring"

    CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana reaches new high.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Please get out of my head Sniffit!
    You beat me to the "FIFY"!

    January 7, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. glenview0818

    If support for jobs in America was as soaring as fast as support for legalizing marijuana, things would be much better.

    January 7, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  4. Malory Archer

    EncinoMan

    Fred Flynt – there have been studies that show that marijuana can actually help to prevent lung cancer. Marijuana smoke can be harmful and kill cells, however, the cells it targets in the lungs are chaotic cells. Chaotic cells are the cells most likely to become cancer. Smoking marijuana could literally lessen your chances of lung cancer. There has also been studies that show marijuana has cancer killing properties in other areas of the body, including the skin and the brain. There is evidence to suggest that marijuana makes brain cancer feed on itself (I guess it gives cancer the munchies). Everything I have said can be substantiated in a number of articles. I suggest we all do our own research so that we can all be enlightened and view the issue of marijuana through the spectrum of truth and not government propaganda and lies.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    This post bears repeating – OFTEN!

    January 7, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. Doctor Fine

    Talking to a medical marijuana petition volunteer in Florida who said that old people who actually know friends in excruciating pain are the easiest ones to get to sign on for legal MMJ.

    Middle years parents who are uptight about everything will simply not sign as they don't know anyone in pain in their circle of friends.

    Young people seem to be totally for it as they know lots of frieds who smoke and it does nothing bad to them except go to prison...

    January 7, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. Sniffit

    "Legalize it... and tax it HEAVILY."

    You might think that's a viable threat that would make people back down for fear of expensive weed, I dunno...some people really seem to think so. But it's not effective at all. The economies of scale that could be achieved far outweigh the threat of taxing it the way we tax liquor or tobacco.

    "with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot,"

    Yep...people medicated to the hilt with geriatric chemical salads, people medicated to the hilt with anti-psychotics (or who at least should be) and moonshine-culture garage-distillers all think maryjane be some bad mojo. Yawn.

    January 7, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Sniffit

    ""CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring"

    CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana reaches new high.
    -----------------
    Please get out of my head Sniffit!
    You beat me to the "FIFY"!"

    Haha...I had to put a quarter in the pun jar.

    January 7, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    But, I think the main argument about marijuana being a 'gateway drug' is based upon the assumption that you would obtain marijuana through the same, or similar, channels as you would the harder, man-made drugs
    -------------------------------------------------
    Interesting spin on the phrase "gateway drug".
    I am of the mind that they are refering to marijuana as being the first drug that people often try in order to get high. The fear that some have is that marijuana use would open the door, so to speak, to using other drugs as the person seeks to experience a "better" or different high.
    Thus the phrase "gateway drug".
    IMO.

    January 7, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. Marcus (from...?)

    Fred Phred
    Nice to call all those who have a different point of view than yours junkies/drug addicts... not,
    Fact – the 1937 Prohibition was based on lies, in 1972 the last institute used to produce all the lies that backed it (like 'mariijuana is a gateway to heroin') apologized for their 'junk' report.
    Fact – to this day there's not a single study that backs up any of the 1937's claims against marijuana (and those were lies)
    Fact – You don't have facts to back your position so you retort to name calling...

    January 7, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. Malory Archer

    bob

    Mexican drug war kills 20,000. sounds terrible? more died in alcohol fueled car wrecks. More died from smoking regular cigarettes last month.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    If America legalized cannibis, Mexico's drug wars deaths would decline dramatically, as America is their biggest customer.

    January 7, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Fair is Fair
    The point is that there is little, if anything, on this planet that overuse of is beneficial. Everything in moderation.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Co-signed

    January 7, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  12. revA

    It used to be government protected us from gambling, but then they where offered a cut.
    Now lets watch what happens with MJ

    January 7, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. tom l

    "CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring"

    CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana reaches new high.

    FIFY

    "So will there be a large lawsuit in a few years over the cancer that is caused by smoking pot?"

    Funny thing about pot versus tobacco: eating it is a viable option.

    "Then cry me a river when your kids are killed in an auto accident because they were high."

    Right. Because making it illegal is what means it will never happen. I've got MADD on the other line...they'd like to speak with you.

    ========

    Based on your last sentence now perhaps you have seen the light and understand what 2nd Amendment supporters have been saying all along! Hallelujah! You have seen the light!! :)

    January 7, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. joey

    Did someone just say cigarettes are better than marijuana? Cigarettes, the deadliest drug on earth, the drug that kills over 6 million humans each year, cigarettes that are only rivaled by herion when it comes to addictive properties, cigarettes are safer than marijuana? Marijuana that isn't physically addictive? Marijuana that is completely nontoxic? The same marijuana that has numerous medical applications and has never been linked to lung cancer? Now I guess I've heard it all....

    January 7, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  15. srcactus

    With unemployment at such a high level,time on ones hands so to speak, might just as well self medicate! Obamacare will be much easier to tolerate too.

    January 7, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  16. jayh

    Marijuana has actually been shown as a drug that prevents drug users from trying other drugs. In fact the opposite of a gateway drug.

    January 7, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  17. Big_D

    So again the GOP is on the wrong side of history and opposing it.

    January 7, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. Big_D

    The most disruptive part about Colorado legalizing has been the temper tantrum the right wingers are throwing trying to split the state so they don't have to follow the State Constitution.

    January 7, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. Natrldiver

    I find it funny that people are more worried about getting their high that about recovering the economy or reducing the national debt. At lest we know where their priorities are.

    January 7, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Malory Archer

    Sniffit

    "Legalize it... and tax it HEAVILY."

    You might think that's a viable threat that would make people back down for fear of expensive weed, I dunno...some people really seem to think so. But it's not effective at all. The economies of scale that could be achieved far outweigh the threat of taxing it the way we tax liquor or tobacco.

    "with senior citizens, Republicans, and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot,"

    Yep...people medicated to the hilt with geriatric chemical salads, people medicated to the hilt with anti-psychotics (or who at least should be) and moonshine-culture garage-distillers all think maryjane be some bad mojo. Yawn.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Colorado has imposed a 25% tax, and there are lines around the corner for the product. More conservative areas such as Colorado Springs have opted out of allowing sales, and that's their choice. Meanwhile, they shut off the streetlights, pulled trashcans from city parks and closed community centers that housed senior dining programs and before/after school care a few years ago due to budget constraints. :(

    January 7, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  21. Big_D

    The most disruptive part of legalization is the right wingers trying to split the state over it.

    January 7, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  22. stephen douglas

    The growth and personal use of marijuana should absolutely be legal. The sale of marijuana should not be legal. Commercializing marijuana will make it more widespread, will allow drug cartels to become legitimate businesses, and worst of all – give the government another tax source, which they should not be allowed.

    Bottom line, let anyone wishing to use marijuana to do so, but under no circumstances should it be commercialized.

    January 7, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  23. Chicago8345

    I can see the future. NY bans chili dogs and legalizes pot! Big Gulp bad....drug that makes you lazy and kills brain cells...good.

    January 7, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  24. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Rudy, Fair is Fair, Dominican mama

    Hey, thanks for the comments. My friend (my daughter's God-mother) was an outstanding woman until she hit the stuff. My brother (haven't seen him for over 8 years now) also hit the stuff at a very early age, and yes, Fair, he is/was also an alcoholic, so I do understand your taken in moderation argument. I am sorry to hear about your own brother. It is horrible to watch someone die a slow death resulting in alcohol abuse. My own mother choose that route herself. I also understand she herself might have been a cause and effect for my brother's life ... or lack thereof.

    Should it be legalized, though? My own personal opinion is no. But that is my opinion and I'll allow Congress (and or states) to decide the issue. I'm simply voicing an opinion here, not advocating against.

    Thank you, Dominican mama for your support against smoking. It is my own personal struggle of which I do become frustrated because I feel I can't seem to get a handle on it. My husband quit 30 years ago. Bless both of you for breaking the habit. I KNOW how hard it is. The good news is, neither of my three daughters smoke and for that I am grateful. I haven't tried hypnosis, but at this point, I will look into it. Anything is better than sucking those damn things day after day.

    January 7, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  25. Malory Archer

    Natrldiver

    I find it funny that people are more worried about getting their high that about recovering the economy or reducing the national debt. At lest we know where their priorities are.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Legalizing could go a long way toward fixing the economy and reducing unemployment. It's an entire cottage industry that would spawn other cottage industries, including bringing industrial hemp production back to American shores.

    January 7, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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