Marijuana legalization support is at all-time high, new polls find

Americans are divided on a lot of issues. But one topic they’re increasingly less divided on, based on polling by Gallup and the Pew Research Center, is marijuana legalization.

According to a new survey conducted by Gallup earlier in October, 66 percent of US adults — two-thirds — support legalizing marijuana, up from 64 percent in 2017.

In another recent survey conducted in September by the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of US adults said they support legalization, up from 61 percent last year. That’s also “double what it was in 2000 (31%),” Pew noted.

Charts showing support for marijuana legalization, based on polling from the Pew Research Center.

Gallup’s polling numbers are generally more favorable toward legalization than Pew’s. A major difference, for example, is Gallup has found majority support for legalization among Republicans, who are generally more conservative on drug policy issues than Democrats or independents, while Pew has found a majority of Republicans still oppose legalization. That likely comes down to different methodologies used by the surveys.

Regardless, the surveys both found pretty healthy and rising support for legalization across the US.

The good news for legalization comes in the middle of what’s been a very big year for legal pot. This year, Canada became the second country worldwide and the first wealthy nation to legalize pot. Vermont became the first state to legalize pot through its legislature instead of a ballot initiative. California opened its legal pot market, which is the largest in the world.

And on top of the nine states that have legalized pot for recreational and medical uses and the 21 others that have done so only for medical purposes, voters in four more states will consider recreational or medical legalization in this November’s midterm elections.

Supporters of legalization argue that it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the hundreds of thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, will outweigh any of the potential downsides — such as increased cannabis use — that might come with legalization.

Opponents, meanwhile, claim that legalization will enable a huge marijuana industry that will market the drug irresponsibly. They point to America’s experiences with the alcohol and tobacco industries, which have built their financial empires in large part on some of the heaviest consumers of their products. This could result in far more people using pot, even if it leads to negative health consequences.

Based on the latest polling, supporters are increasingly coming out on top.

For more on marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.

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