CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
January 6th, 2014
08:00 PM ET
11 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. TTe Tom

    Put the cartels out of business, legalize through merchants.

    January 7, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Phone calls nationwide... I never received that phone call. I am in total disagreement with legalizing marijuana. ( in the state of NY) I just hope governor Cuomo really reviews into this statistically.

    January 7, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    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.
    -----------------
    ??? They do pay more in most cases. Every health insurance application that I've seen for the past umpteen years has you check a box if you are not a smoker, and another box if you are a smoker. Smokers are charged 50-100% higher rates. Guess what happens if you're a smoker, check the non-smoker box, and come down with lung cancer from smoking?

    January 7, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  4. tobiathan

    I'm a Southern Republican and i strongly support legal cannabis.

    Also- i don't know more than a few others like me who don't.

    It was ignorant of CNN to try to single out Southerners and Republicans in this article. It was unnecessary, useless, and only adds to the divide between Americans who, in reality, agree with one another.

    Try to regain some credibility, CNN, but stopping your hateful and prejudicial behavior towards Southerners and Republicans.

    January 7, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. Eric

    Marijuana saved my life…… I live with chronic pain everyday from an accident that resulted in a severe back injury, shoulder surgery, hip/pelvis reconstructive surgery. I am 28 years old and when I am medicated I am able to play with my 2 young children, I am able to laugh and live life with hope that I won’t have to suffer everyday from being a prisoner of my own body. Well guess what, I live in Ohio and I am a criminal in the governments eyes because I would rather take 2 puffs of marijuana instead of opiates wich have already taken years of my life. I can’t smoke marijuana currently and everyday I sit in a corner and cry because I refuse to take pain pills. Even my family and friends supported the Passion I have for the marijuana plant because it truly was my miracle medicine. I am ready to move my family to a marijuana legal state but its hard to quit a job you have worked at for 11 years and say goodbye to your parents with not knowing you’ll find safe shelter or a solid job to support your family in another state, its scary.I am almost 30 years old and all I want is to be a good husband and a great father and marijuana helped me so much. I’m afraid my lifes going to pass me by and I’m going to look back on a life of pain instead of a life with happiness and passion. I pray everyday that someone will reach out to my family and lend a helping hand to my family and help us. The passion and knowledge I have for the marijuana plant will never be replaced. I am tired of suffering, just so tired. It’s hurting my wife and kids to see me like this especially when they have seen me content, peaceful and so happy. I miss my plants, I miss my medicine, I miss being happy and being able to control my body pain with medicine I made with my own hands.

    January 7, 2014 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  6. sqeptiq

    Marijuana is a gateway drug...at least illegal marijuana is...when you buy it from an illegal dealer he is probably going to push you to try other drugs; legal marijuana, the legal dealer doesn't care..

    January 7, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  7. z&hcats

    I was horrified to see many youngsters waiting on the long line for buying marijuana in some states. In order to collect more tax revenues, the politicians lure young people to buy pot. Are they no different from the drug dealers? What is the next step? Legalize heroin to bring further more tax revenues? Do they also concerns about the health damages to them? If marijuana is safe(except for some patients) why some have the hallucination after taking it?

    January 7, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. Dan Moody

    The most difficult part of legalizing marijuana is that it goes against some very powerful interest groups. The privatized prison industry and all os the scum that makes up agencies like the DEA and all of the grant money that goes to your local police department. This gutless wonder we have for president hasn't had the guts to stand for anything so the states are leading the reform. As a 56 year old taxpayer it offends me that my money is wasted on this useless drug war. I support sequester of the federal budget because to this day they still don't have their priorities right. In my old hometown of Helena, Mont. the DEA busted a medical marijuana facility, threw a handicapped worker on the ground, put their boots on his head when they broke in. The DEA is nothing but nazis and the only good DEA agent is a dead one.

    January 7, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. WSB

    Why do so many Christians consider Marijuana use to be sinful when the Bible doen't even mention it, much less condemn it? If it were bad, wouldn't God have told us so?

    January 7, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  10. bil

    Now days you have to pass a drug test before you get hired for a job. I wonder if Colorado will force employers to drop the drug test.Getting interesting. Employers now also check credit reports before they hire, so which is worst a stoned worker or people that have bad credit due lengthy unemployment?.

    January 7, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. WSB

    Agreeing to legalize marijuana does not automatically equal approval for its being used. It means people no longer want a society where people go to prison for using it. You don't have to be pro-marijuana to be for its legalization. It will also boost the economy in a taxable way.

    January 7, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  12. WSB

    The current legislation that establishes marijuana as illegal nationally did not include any medicial research in its decision when made. This is ridiculous. Something should not be labled lawfully as dangerous to society, unless there is logical and substantial evidence that it is. The current laws MUST be reviewed.

    January 7, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. mitchgam

    Since the same age group that opposes and end to the prohibition are over 60 and that same age group also votes Republican, I suppose the Republican party will object to it.

    January 7, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  14. WSB

    People who think the legalization of marijuana will lead the the legalization of other drugs like heroin are not seeing things logically. Marijuana has no medical reason to be illegal according to why drugs are criminalized. Heroin can cause physical addiction and death from overdose. Marijuana causes niether. People should be worried about pill addiction and things like meth, not marijuana.

    January 7, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. marktoml

    If it can be tolerated
    it can be regulated
    if it can be regulated
    it can be TAXED.

    Just like other 'sin' taxes. let'em pay.

    January 7, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. Katie

    I have been smoking for many year..It never takes aches or pains away..For about 10 minutes it will take away nausa...Beacause of the KASPER Law in Ky, Doctors will not prescribe Scheduled pain meds, if pot is found in your system..Smoke causes lung cancer..It will drive up the street cost..Seeds will no longer exsists to grow your own...Pot is to easy to get, why legalize it..You go to jail for driving drunk, you will still go to jail for smoking pot..Legal or not..They ask if you smoke on Health and Life Ins.policy and will drive the cost of Ins up..I could go on and on why it should not be Legalized..

    January 7, 2014 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  17. beartalebob

    There is one reason that is always distasteful to admit for those who believe a plant should be deemed illegal because it gives the smoker a high, it's called Education of the masses through the internet about the truth that has been suppressed and the lies that have been perpetuated about the plant. There are hot pepper that will harm you and mushrooms that will kill you but it's not against the law to consume them, get a grip on the truth and the lies get harder to justify.

    January 7, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. @LaughinPaulRyan

    Buy some MJNA shares, they hold a majority stake in Red Dice Holdings that licenses the Dixie Elixirs & Edibles brand that makes the medicated truffle that Sean Azzariti purchased. Visit Medical Marijuana Inc. (OTC:MJNA) website to find out more about why they are a great public cannabis stock to invest in long-term like: US Government Patent #6630507, KannaLife Sciences, CanChew CBD Gum, US Hemp Oil, Cibaderm, Cannabis Beauty DEFINED, Cibdex, Dixie Elixirs, HempMedsPX, HempVAP and more.

    January 7, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  19. msadr

    This seems to me like a matter of relativity. in the 70's only young fools were on drugs. Not so today. I have little doubt that we are the most drugged country on earth. The average US citizen over 30 is taking more pills on a daily basis than I have swallowed in the last 5 years. Even our kids are drugged for everything from ADHD to asthma. Parents even drug their kids with benadryl to make them sleep. Pot is child's play compared to ridalin, ambien and zoloft. You are way better off smoking a joint than swallowing an anti-depressant (which 25% of the country is currently hooked on). Pot is the least of our problems. Might as well make some money off of it since the big pharma companies are filthy rich off our addictions to anti-depressants and sleep aids.

    January 7, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Thizzle

    Non users should really do some research before spouting off about the health concerns. Sure there are health concerns from smoking, but most medical users don't smoke. They vaporize, use edibles, salves, tongue drops etc... all of which have not shown any adverse health effects. Furthermore Alcohol is clearly more dangerous and more of a gateway drug than marijuana.

    January 7, 2014 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  21. nathan

    Im 22 and i have smoked bud everyday for the last 5 years. I am a deans list student at U of I, I work 40 hours a week, and have no health problems. In my 5 years of smoking ILLEGAL marijuana, not once have my dealers ever tried to push harder drugs on. Most people who sell pot don't have an affiliation with harder drugs, if you want to find a pot dealer who sells crack or heroin you have to go to the city for some stupid stuff like that.

    January 7, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  22. Brad

    Notice how most of the anti-legalization commenters in here can't put a coherent, intelligent sentence together? And us pot smokers are the idiots? Hmmmmmm...

    And please, the rest of my smoking brothers and sisters, just because the majority of anti-legalization poll respondents were from the South...please don't generalize and lump the rest of us Southerners in with them. Isn't that the same problem we are having with folks that think all of us pot smokers are lazy, shiftless do-nothings? Be better than that while we continue to fight the good fight.

    January 7, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  23. Nonbeliever

    Consuming cannabis has NEVER been morally wrong. It's a plant that has many uses, including medicinally and recreationally. Humans have been using it for thousands of years. It's only because of vested financial interests that pot was turned into a "moral" issue.

    Do people abuse pot? Yes, they do. And they abuse other drugs, food, TV and many other aspects of human culture. We need to deal with the abuse, not turn millions who use it responsibly into criminals. All that does is feed the prison industry.

    January 7, 2014 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  24. Chris Shettatf

    This is good, but 44% is still too much! It should be zero.

    January 7, 2014 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  25. cliffintex

    As usual CNN singles out southerners and republicans. As my wife & I fit both categories – I am here to refute his assumption that those groups are against legalization. To be sure, there are some – but just as many northern democrats are against legalization. Most people I know that fit into the same category as I do would like to see pot legalized. Not so much because they care about people getting high, but more because the number of people in jail for a small amounts. Many lives have been severely impacted over these insane laws.

    January 7, 2014 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
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