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Social & Policy Issues
In the News: Marijuana Legalization
Social & Policy Issues

In the News: Marijuana Legalization

The Trump administration has rescinded an Obama-era policy that discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing charges against marijuana users in states that have legalized the drug. This policy change comes as California began permitting the sale of recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, and could put the legalization movement in jeopardy.

Public Opinion Context

  • Americans' support for marijuana legalization was at a record high of 64% in Gallup's most recent update in October 2017. This represents a continuing increase in support for legalization over the past several decades, with half or more generally favoring it since 2011.

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  • Republicans' support for legalizing marijuana (51%) reached majority level for the first time in 2017. Democrats (72%) and independents (67%) continue to be much more likely than Republicans to say marijuana should be legalized.

  • About one in eight U.S. adults said in July 2017 that they currently use marijuana. The 45% who say they have tried marijuana has also increased over time, and is the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 1969, when only 4% reported having tried marijuana.

  • Americans strongly opposed the government enforcing federal marijuana laws in states where it was legal when Gallup last asked about it in November 2012. The rise in support for legalized marijuana since then suggests that it is likely that fewer Americans would approve of the federal government overriding state laws now.

Key Takeaway

While the Trump administration appears committed to cracking down on states that have legalized marijuana, this would be out of sync with public opinion. This potential crackdown also could put at risk the future of the commercial marijuana industry, which was projected to exceed $20 billion by 2021.


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