In recent years, polls have shown that a majority of Americans think the United States is losing the so-called “War on Drugs” and that states should be allowed to decide whether marijuana is legal. Now, just months after the passage of two voter-approved state initiatives to legalize and regulate marijuana, a new Pew poll finds that for the first time, a majority of all Americans also think marijuana should be legal. The nationwide survey found that 52 percent support legalized marijuana, while 45 percent oppose legalization. Unsurprisingly, the strongest support comes from younger Americans, with 65 percent of Millenials age 18 to 32 in favor of legalization. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press illustrates shifting public opinion on this question:
An overwhelming 72 percent now believe that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws have cost more than they’re worth, and some 60 percent say the federal government should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states where it is legal. In medical marijuana states, federal authorities have continued to crack down on some distributors seemingly complying with state law. As Washington and Colorado move forward in implementing their new recreational marijuana laws, Attorney General Eric Holder has yet to announce the official Department of Justice policy, although he has said he will have an answer “relatively soon.”
A vast majority of those polled – 77 percent – also said they believe marijuana has a legitimate medical use, even though the Drug Enforcement Administration has remained steadfast in its position that the plant has no currently accepted medical use. Almost the same percentage of Democrats and Republicans hold that view. In fact, among those who reported they have tried marijuana in the past year, 47 percent said their use was recreational, while a significant 30 percent said it was solely for medical reasons. Another 23 percent said they used it for both. Only 38 percent of those polled consider marijuana a gateway drug.