Support for marijuana legalization at all-time high

By Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto

Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll. Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use. 

Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents.  

Sixty-five percent think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. And only 23 percent think legalizing marijuana leads to an increase violent crime.

More generally on the topic of drug abuse, 69 percent think that should be treated as an addiction and mental health problem rather than a criminal offense.

Support for legal marijuana continues to climb

The belief that pot should be legal has reached a new high in CBS News polls.  Sixty-one percent of Americans now say the it should be, a five-point increase from a year ago.  This sentiment has increased each year we’ve measured it since 2013, with the turning point to majority support coming in 2014. Back in 1979, this poll found just 27 percent saying it should be legal.  

Those over 65 are the most opposed to legalization, but most under age 65 support it. And women are now as much in favor of legal marijuana as men are; in previous years they were less so. 

Many states have legalized pot in some form, and most Americans don’t think the federal government should try to stop its sale and use in those states.  Even among those who think marijuana should be illegal, only half think the federal government should get involved with the states.

This sentiment cuts across party lines:  Majorities of Republicans (63 percent), Democrats (76 percent), and independents (72 percent) oppose the federal government trying to stop marijuana use in these states.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asserted a connection between marijuana and violent crime, but few Americans see it that way:  just 23 percent think legalizing pot increases violent crime, while nearly as many think legal marijuana decreases it.  

Marijuana compared to alcohol and other drugs

Generally, most Americans think habitual drug use should be treated as an addiction problem rather than a criminal offense.  Even most Americans who oppose legalizing marijuana think so.  Majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree.

Most Americans view marijuana in particular as safer than alcohol.  

And most Americans also think marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs, particularly those who say they have tried it.

There continues to be wide support for allowing doctors to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses:  88 percent of Americans think this should be allowed – similar to a year ago.  Even most Americans who oppose legalizing marijuana in general think medical marijuana use should be…

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