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. Silence DoGood

    @Dean
    Of course young Americans and Democrats are for legalization...these are the same idiots who put Obama in the White House.
    -----------
    Freedom is tough to deal with but we live in a free country. Unless you want to try Prohibition again.

    July 28, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    Should marijuana use be legal?
    ------------------------------
    Is Michelle Bachmann the most clueless politician ever?

    July 28, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. BP4

    Uhhh,.yep.....

    July 28, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  4. Thomas

    Michelle Bachmann / Ted Cruz

    Green Eggs and Weed 2014 ?

    July 28, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    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.
    --------------------------
    The Rand Corporation is hardly non-partisan. It's conservative. Furthermore, marijuana sells for more in the legalized outlets than what it sells for on the streets. Their study's results about a reduction in the price is plain and simple demagoguery. .Facts speak, otherwise.

    July 28, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. it must be said

    Like I said! NOBODY is in prison for simple possession of marijuana. One person plainly states the person was selling it as well as using it. That is what is known as a dealer poor uneducated lefties. And then somebody says another person is in jail because of third strike laws. Well, that is what is known as a habitual offender. Obviously not just a pot user but into other criminal activity. The lefties just like to spew their nonsense about the jails being full of little old pot smokers and that is a total lie.

    July 28, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  7. ja

    Why not, tax it, and move on, we sell alcohol at gas stations, despite the DUI rates

    July 28, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    it must be said

    Like I said! NOBODY is in prison for simple possession of marijuana. One person plainly states the person was selling it as well as using it. That is what is known as a dealer poor uneducated lefties. And then somebody says another person is in jail because of third strike laws. Well, that is what is known as a habitual offender. Obviously not just a pot user but into other criminal activity. The lefties just like to spew their nonsense about the jails being full of little old pot smokers and that is a total lie.
    ------------------------
    Uh, if the marijuana were legalized then he couldn't be convicted and sentenced for being a dealer. You need to slow your roll and use something called plain common sense. I noticed that you totally ignored my example of "three strikes and you're out". For three possession misdemeanors, a person can get a life sentence. "You're out."

    July 28, 2014 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. yolanda

    Legalize it. Alcohol has ruined more lives than any other drug. Catch a buzz and you might be guilty of bad eating habits, but you're not aggressive, whether it be to a spouse/partner, someone in a bar, but only toward the person who dares to eat the last pizza slice. America needs to lighten up a bit. Maybe if Congress lit up they could get something accomplished.

    July 28, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    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.
    -------------------
    There's a black market for nearly everything if you look hard enough. Legalization has the potential to obsolete, or at least put a major dent in the black markets. It's what happened following Prohibition over time. About the only thing that will keep the black market alive and thriving will be greed, legal outlets selling product at very high prices. We are seeing some of that in Colorado, already.

    Selling "loosies" can be extremely hazardous to your health.

    July 28, 2014 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. reality can be unkind

    Imbs, yup, and all the nanny states are run by Democrats, struggling with the truth again? Oh and another article you may like, from psychology today, it states based on a study they had performed: liberals are smarter than conservatives,go figure, call me a liar and whatever you do, don't research it. Fool.

    July 28, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  12. Ian's Rushtache

    The man who molested me as a child was morally wrong.

    I am not morally wrong for using marijuana to deal with depression because the side effects of legal drugs scare the hell out of me.

    July 28, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Legalize it. Alcohol has ruined more lives than any other drug. Catch a buzz and you might be guilty of bad eating habits, but you're not aggressive, whether it be to a spouse/partner, someone in a bar, but only toward the person who dares to eat the last pizza slice. America needs to lighten up a bit. Maybe if Congress lit up they could get something accomplished.
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Co-signed, even though......some folks I know (wink) aren't worth two nickels after lighting up.
    All they want to do is eat and sleep (again wink!).
    So I'm not quite so sure about how much work Congress would get done, but they sure would be a friendlier and more pleasant bunch to be around.
    Much more conducive to getting along, so you might be right after all yolanda.

    July 28, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  14. Silence DoGood

    @Tony D "Great, just what we need, kids with even lower IQs than we have now!!"
    --------------–
    I think smoking a little responsible recreational pot will do a lot more for kids IQ than the conservative plan of taking science out of the classroom, teaching Creationism, and putting more guns in school.

    July 28, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Fair is Fair

    Legalize. And tax. Heavily.
    -----------------------------------------------------
    We're in agreement there.

    July 28, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    In my state of Virginia, it will never be legal. The Commonwealth makes too much money from incarcerating minorities from it, and charging you $2 a day once you're in jail.

    July 28, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. 2_indy1600

    The homeless shelters in Denver report twice the teenages in the first six months of this year than they did last year. Kids coming in blame pot and jobs. This is such a no brainer, literally.

    July 28, 2014 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  18. Rick McDaniel

    Of course not. This country already has far too many people destroying their lives with drugs.

    July 28, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Legalize it and stop penalizing people for smoking a damn plant
    -----------------------------------------------------Lol!
    You're killing me with your "plant" line!!
    See how my garden grows.....lol!

    July 28, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  20. don in albuquerque

    it must be said
    "NOBODY is in prison for simple possession????" And what are you smoking? As a former cop I guarantee you I have arrested people for simple possession, and stood and listened to a judge sentence them to prison. The only person spewing nonsense here is you. Where do you live? Oz??

    July 28, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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