People Press 14 April 2015
Public opinion about legalizing marijuana, while little changed in the past few years, has undergone a dramatic long-term shift. A new survey finds that 53% favor the legal use of marijuana, while 44% are opposed. As recently as 2006, just 32% supported marijuana legalization, while nearly twice as many (60%) were opposed.
Millennials (currently 18-34) have been in the forefront of this change: 68% favor legalizing marijuana use, by far the highest percentage of any age cohort. But across all generations –except for the Silent Generation (ages 70-87) – support for legalization has risen sharply over the past decade.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 25-29 among 1,500 adults, finds that supporters of legalizing the use of marijuana are far more likely than opponents to say they have changed their mind on this issue.
Among the public overall, 30% say they support legalizing marijuana use and have always felt that way, while 21% have changed their minds; they say there was a time when they thought it should be illegal. By contrast, 35% say they oppose legalization and have always felt that way; just 7% have changed their minds from supporting to opposing legalization.
When asked, in their own words, why they favor or oppose legalizing marijuana, people on opposite sides of the issue offer very different perspectives. But a common theme is the danger posed by marijuana: Supporters of legalization mention its perceived health benefits, or see it as no more dangerous than other drugs. To opponents, it is a dangerous drug, one that inflicts damage on people and society more generally.