Should marijuana use be legal?
July 28th, 2014
02:36 PM ET
4 months ago

Should marijuana use be legal?

Washington (CNN) – Around half the public says that marijuana use should be legal, according to recent national polling.

Forty-eight percent of those questioned in a CBS News survey in early May said that the use of marijuana should be legal, with 47% disagreeing. The poll suggested partisan, gender and generational divides, with a majority of men, younger Americans, Democrats and independents saying recreational pot should be legal. Women, those 45 and older, as well as Republicans, disagree.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in early January also indicated that Americans were divided on the issue.

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in February and a CNN/ORC International poll conducted in early January both indicated a slight majority supported legalizing marijuana use. Fifty-four percent of those questioned in the Pew poll, and 55% of those sampled in the CNN poll supported legalizing marijuana.

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.

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 CNN Polling Director Keating 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%, according to the CNN survey.

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.

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: CNN/ORC International poll • Marijuana • Polls
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Sure, why not? Legalization would put an entire black market industry out of business. It could possibly free up space in prisons for people serving long sentences for victimless crimes, such as possession. We would likely see societal changes that are similar to what we saw at the end of Prohibition.

    July 28, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  2. What evs

    To each their own I always said. As long as your "activities" do not interfere with me or my owns...

    July 28, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. bmike

    Oh yeah that's all america needs country that consumes more drugs than any other country. Medical purposes maybe but some might take advantage of it being legal.

    July 28, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Yes!! Why should a person risk being hooked on prescription drugs when a 'J' is better for you? Why should we keep making the drug companies even more filthy rich?

    Legalize it and stop penalizing people for smoking a damn plant!

    July 28, 2014 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  5. it must be said

    Rudy NYC
    Sure, why not? Legalization would put an entire black market industry out of business.
    -–

    Is illegal pot still available to young kids on the streets of Colorado? Of course it is! Your statement is wrong as usual.

    It could possibly free up space in prisons for people serving long sentences for victimless crimes, such as possession.
    ---

    Absolutely NOBODY is serving long prison time for marijuana possession unless they were a dealer and if they were a dealer then they were most likely dealing in other illegal drugs. So you are wrong once again.

    We would likely see societal changes that are similar to what we saw at the end of Prohibition.
    ---

    Care to tell us what those were? More drunks behind the wheel killing people? More women being abused and beaten by drunken guys? More alcoholism? Problem with marijuana is they are also lacing hundreds of products with it and people are eating this stuff not knowing it has pot in it, including children.

    The country needs to see what happens in Colorado and a few other states first before turning this into a nation wide disaster. Don't we have enough problems in this country without producing more stoners?

    July 28, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    bmike says:
    July 28, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm
    Oh yeah that’s all america needs country that consumes more drugs than any other country. Medical purposes maybe but some might take advantage of it being legal.

    Actually America is the country that consumes the most drugs... Prescription that is. Marijuana has NONE of the side effects that prescription drugs do. You'll get happy and hungry but not suicidal or homicidal.

    July 28, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. smith

    Legalize it and tax the heck out of it. As far as getting rid of a black market, I harly think so. Cigarettes are legal and there is still a black market for it.

    July 28, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Oh yeah that's all america needs country that consumes more drugs than any other country
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Maybe I misunderstood your post, but we already have that dubious distinction of consuming more drugs than several countries combined as a matter of fact.
    So what's a little weed to take off the edge off of all those pills?!

    July 28, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    Legalize. And tax. Heavily.

    July 28, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  10. American46

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

    The reason is because..... in today's world, any 8 year old with a computer and an internet connection can find out the truth about marijuana. It has often been said that the internet was going to change the world. Here is proof.

    July 28, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  11. sonny chapman

    Other than DWStoned, why not ?

    July 28, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    But I doubt it will be legalized for any adult to use. How on earth would they give black teens their first felony charge, putting them straight on the road to prison???

    July 28, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  13. Dean

    Of course young Americans and Democrats are for legalization...these are the same idiots who put Obama in the White House.

    July 28, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. O'drama ya Mama

    bmike

    Oh yeah that's all america needs country that consumes more drugs than any other country. Medical purposes maybe but some might take advantage of it being legal.
    July 28, 2014 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Yea someone might smoke 2 joints instead of only one and then all hell will break loose...at your local taco bell.

    July 28, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Chris..E.Al

    I say put it up for a nationwide vote and be done with it ? I feel that way on many issues also ? But we the ppl all the ppl will never get that chance i suppose ?

    July 28, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  16. Chris..E.Al

    I say put it up for a nationwide vote and be done with it ? I feel that way on many issues also ? But we the ppl all the ppl will never get that chance i suppose ? Never .

    July 28, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. Tone

    bmike

    Oh yeah that's all america needs country that consumes more drugs than any other country. Medical purposes maybe but some might take advantage of it being legal.

    Genious they are already taking advantage of it right now,and many of them are behind bars, and they smoke it in jail also so your statement makes no sense just like all right wingers so legalize it, and don't criticize it.

    July 28, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  18. Thomas

    YES / and Taxed as is Alcohol .

    All tax revenue from marijuana should go to Education and Rehabilitation only.

    July 28, 2014 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. Ol' Yeller

    "Absolutely NOBODY is serving long prison time for marijuana possession unless they were a dealer and if they were a dealer then they were most likely dealing in other illegal drugs. So you are wrong once again."

    So you think if you use all caps it makes it true? Here in OK, there is a paraplegic mechanic serving a life sentence for possession of an ounce of marijuana. He split it into quarters... sell 3, pay for the ounce, keep the leftover one for personal use.
    Got life in prison. A disabled individual working and staying off the welfare roles. All over one ounce of marijuana.
    That just weighs slightly more than your brain.

    1 pot plant = 2 years to life.

    Jeeze... man, quit just pounding on your keyboard and hitting the post button.
    We are all stupider for reading your rants...

    July 28, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  20. Ol' Yeller

    "Yea someone might smoke 2 joints instead of only one and then all hell will break loose...at your local taco bell.'

    Laughed out loud....
    Go Mama...
    it's your birthday!!!

    July 28, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. Tommy G

    OK, this is SO predictable!

    Obama legalizes "medical marijuana" nationwide.

    Since it is now a medicine, Obamacare and all other healthcare plans will be required to cover it.

    Your tax bill and healthcare premiums will now go up to cover the millions of new "medicinal marijuana" patients.

    July 28, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. Thomas

    @Dean
    Of course young Americans and Democrats are for legalization...these are the same idiots who put Obama in the White House.

    ====

    Are you an old Republican , the same informed misled reactionary who voted for GW Bush , still looking for WMDs , Mission Accomplished !

    Progressive is just another word for openminded , insanity is doing the same thing over and over , expecting deferent results .

    July 28, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. smith

    Personally, I have no issue with pot being legal. However, to act like the only side effect of pot is the munchies is dumb. Pot, like anything else smoked is hazardous to your health.

    July 28, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    it must be said

    Rudy NYC
    Sure, why not? Legalization would put an entire black market industry out of business.
    -–

    Is illegal pot still available to young kids on the streets of Colorado? Of course it is! Your statement is wrong as usual.

    It could possibly free up space in prisons for people serving long sentences for victimless crimes, such as possession.
    -

    Absolutely NOBODY is serving long prison time for marijuana possession unless they were a dealer and if they were a dealer then they were most likely dealing in other illegal drugs. So you are wrong once again.
    -------------------------------–
    I suppose that you have never heard of "three strikes and you're out" laws. Yes, there are people serving long sentences for repeated minor offenses of drug possession.

    Did you know that people still sell liquor illegally? I think you're making the false of assumption that changes to the illegal drug change would occur overnight. Such expectations are typical conservative ignorance. While they may still sell marijuana on the streets, it was not much different after prohibition. What ended the illegal transport and sale of liquor was price. It was becoming cheaper in the establishments.

    July 28, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. Tony D

    Great, just what we need, kids with even lower IQs than we have now!! No wonder Democrats are for this, the dumber the kid, the more likely to be a Democrat voter. Why is the left so against the scientific evidence in this matter? Science deniers for sure.

    According to the nonpartisan RAND Corporation, legalization would greatly reduce the price of marijuana, thereby significantly increasing use, especially among kids. This is a problem because the brain is developing until age 25, and recently completed research shows that pot can significantly decrease IQ, double the risk of a car crash (according to the most exhaustive review ever undertaken on the matter), and significantly increase the chance of contracting a mental illness. Today's marijuana is not the same stuff parents think back today with nostalgia about—in fact it is about 4-5 times stronger in potency.

    July 28, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
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