CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
January 6th, 2014
08:00 PM ET
10 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. MJA

    Although I have some reservations about the chronic use of MJ, I'd be a fool to think it doesn't already occur. Even so, it pales in comparison to the harm done by prohibiition,and the arrest of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, the greatest percentage of which is just for simple possession. Decriminalization doesn't undo the black market, what this country really needs is full legalization, taxation, and regulation. Break the black market, make the product and the money transparent and taxable, remove the punitive measures, and let adults make their own decisions. If we can tolerate adults with alcohol, guns, poor diet choices, etc, then we can do the same with this and focus our law enforcement men and women, courts, and tax dollars on more pressing issues.

    January 7, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. Bob

    Susan – And I think you are talking about Meth not POT.

    January 7, 2014 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    Dominican mama

    "Quite uncanny discovering a kindred spirit through this site I must tell you.
    Getting old does suck Lynda... somewhat. I have also found it to be quite liberating though: no make-up? No problem. Feel like wearing something a little odd? Who's looking at you anyways?! Wanna fuss somebody out? Go right ahead. Can't remember who you're talking to? Blame it on the menopause."

    LOL. Especially at "who's looking at you anyways"?! Absolutely days long past. Thank God.

    January 7, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    I seem to recall that Pres. Gerald Rolle Ford was in favor of decriminalizing marijuana, if not legalization. I remember seeing sarcastic articles that had referred to him as Gerald "Roll All You Can A" Ford.

    January 7, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    In general, the older we get the less we give a shit about what other people do
    -------------------------------------------------
    Truer words on this subject have never been spoken!

    January 7, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. yeah right

    Susan, you don't know what you are talking about. I went to school in the 70's. A lot of friends used pot, and none had problems "walking away from it". As another poster mentioned you must be confusing it with meth. As for complexion, try looking at the complexion of someone who has smoked tobacco for 50 years.

    January 7, 2014 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Big D

    I love the logic. Smoke from a smokestack and smoke from cars is pollution. Smoke from tobacco is health hazard but smoke from marijuana breathed directly in your lungs is- wait for it- miraculously good for you.

    January 7, 2014 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  8. Fred Evil

    "Alan
    It is VERY interesting that as we grow older and wiser, we are less in favor of legalizing Pot..."
    No Alan, it is VERY interesting that those who grew up long ago are incapable of admitting their bias against cannabis, and using rational facts to come to any sort of conclusion. Cannabis is orders of magnitude SAFER than tobacco or alcohol, and we realized that prohibiting alcohol was a lose-lose after it's Prohibition.
    When will YOU wake up and realize that legalization is not only rational and safer, it's in the interest of American FREEDOM.

    January 7, 2014 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  9. mark nickles

    Omg Susan really doctors doing operations high? They got all the way through medical school and had the intelligence to make it that far in life just so they can smoke weed on their break. Please under the same assumption we need to worry about them drinking too. I know a few doctors who smoke weed no issues in there life at all because they do it responsibly. You act like the world will end and kids will die because it is legal when you can get it any time any place illegally right now. Be ready to allow people to live their lives or get out of the way because we are tired of the gov deciding what is best for us

    January 7, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    "As for complexion, try looking at the complexion of someone who has smoked tobacco for 50 years."

    Oh, dear. Don't forget their teeth and their fingernails. Awful. Just awful.
    Of course, this won't happen with marijuana.

    January 7, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  11. Fred Evil

    Big D "smoke from marijuana breathed directly in your lungs is- wait for it- miraculously good for you."
    Instead of sitting back in your ignorance, and thinking you know more than you obviously do, perhaps you could do some RESEARCH before demonstrating your ignorance. USC studies have shown that cannabis MAY have anti-cancer benefits. Additionally, there are MANY ways to ingest cannabis without smoking it.
    Now, go do some research, come back and apologize for cluttering up everyone's day and browser with your lack of understanding.

    January 7, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Go toothless,
    -------------------------------------------------
    ???!
    Sounds like you're talking about meth and crack users not potheads.
    "Those who defend legalization -do you want your doctor on pot when he comes back from break and examines you"
    No problem with that. Can't say she's not high on medicinal cocaine, or pain killers, or mood stabilizers now as is anyways.
    If she invites me outside to have a toke with her I'll know it's bad news coming...but at least she was kind enough to share and empathetic enough to want to take the edge off of what's coming....
    Just saying...

    January 7, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  13. Big D

    Hey Mark- yep lets get the govt out of our lives. Does that include health care? I know I don't want to subsidize the medical needs of pot users.

    January 7, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  14. Alan Bernstein

    The majority of Americans have woken up to the fact that they have been lied to by the government. Marijuana prohibition has failed. The harm it has done has far surpassed any harm done by the plant. The Internet has permitted the facts about this beneficial plant to break through the lies and distortions, so it is no wonder that people are changing their minds. Judging from a minority of the comments, however, there are still some people who are terribly uninformed. As legalization spreads across the country, the truth will eventually even penetrate the south and the republican party. "When you know more, you do better." Educate yourself!

    January 7, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  15. simplyput

    See the graph on "Political War on Poverty" if you want to know the effects of maryjane. By 1967 we'd been there, done that, and just waited to throw the t-shirt back to good will; unless you just couldn't give it up. It's not addictive though, right?

    January 7, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota

    "As for complexion, try looking at the complexion of someone who has smoked tobacco for 50 years."

    Oh, dear. Don't forget their teeth and their fingernails. Awful. Just awful.
    Of course, this won't happen with marijuana.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Bwahahahahahaha!choke!gasp!ohGod!hahahahaha!!

    January 7, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Big D

    Fred- operative word is "May". Go ahead and hang your hat on may. Surprised Bob Marley died young of cancer. He should have been immortal with all the anti- cancer benefits working for him.

    January 7, 2014 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. Rachel

    I think that it shouldn't be legal, not because it is a drug, but because of the effect it has on those around you. They won't be able to protect children from getting a second-hand high from their parents who use. It'll be a problem in restaurants and in public areas. Just a problem for everyone.

    January 7, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Big D

    Hey Mark- yep lets get the govt out of our lives. Does that include health care? I know I don't want to subsidize the medical needs of pot users.
    ---------------–
    Ah, another "bait and switch" attempt. Change the subject to one you feel you can win. We'll see about that.

    How many times does the right wing have to be told that you are already doing more than subsidizing the medical needs of the those without insurance. You used to pay for it IN FULL. Now the right wing wants to go from making people be responsible for the cost of their health care, back to letting them shoplift health care almost wherever they choose.

    January 7, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Captain Fantastic

    I love the argument "what if your doctor/parent/etc gets stoned?". Well, frankly I'd pre that to them being drunk, and that's a far more realistic fear, it already happens every day.

    January 7, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Rachel

    I think that it shouldn't be legal, not because it is a drug, but because of the effect it has on those around you. They won't be able to protect children from getting a second-hand high from their parents who use. It'll be a problem in restaurants and in public areas. Just a problem for everyone.
    -----------------------
    You need a FACT CHECK. The recent Colorado law specifies that it is only legal to use recreational marijuana in private. It is banned from any and all public locations, which would include restaurants, public streets and parks, motor vehicles, and requires that it be used INDOORS on private property.

    January 7, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Look at the behavior of people on pot who smoke to get high
    -------------------------------------------------
    Versus smoking it to ease their pain, gain some weight?
    You think you they're NOT getting high in the process?
    How about those people's behavior? High is high Susan, regardless of why you're getting high.

    January 7, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    It'll be a problem in restaurants and in public areas. Just a problem for everyone.
    -------------------------------------------------
    How is Amsterdam dealing with that...?

    January 7, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Joe

    cannabis is far safer than either alcohol or tobacco.
    while the World Health Organization (WHO) is estimating 250 million deaths from alcohol consumption, and 1 billion deaths from tobacco use this century, cannabis is expected to cause ZERO deaths.
    it's high time we legalize cannabis.

    January 7, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. Big D

    Rudy- don't really understand your point. Just saying people who abuse their health, like the gung-ho pot smokers, should pay more. They're higher risk. Simple concept. Just like risky car drivers pay more.

    January 7, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
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