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In U.S., Medical Aid Top Reason Why Legal Marijuana Favored
Social & Policy Issues

In U.S., Medical Aid Top Reason Why Legal Marijuana Favored

In U.S., Medical Aid Top Reason Why Legal Marijuana Favored

Story Highlights

  • 86% who favor legalization say medicinal benefit is a very important reason
  • 79% of opponents say risk of increased car accidents underlies their opposition

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As public support for legalizing marijuana has surged, a new Gallup poll finds 86% of U.S. supporters of legal marijuana saying its medicinal benefits are a very important reason they support legalization. Majorities also say freeing up police resources to focus on other crimes, respecting people's personal freedom, and generating tax revenue for state and local governments are key reasons for their support.

Legal Marijuana Supporters' Reasons for Wanting to Make It Legal
Please say whether each of the following is a very important reason why you favor legalizing marijuana, a somewhat important reason or not an important reason. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?
Very important Somewhat important Not important
% % %
Marijuana helps people who use it for medical reasons 86 12 2
It would free up law enforcement to focus on other types of crime 70 23 7
It is a matter of freedom and personal choice 60 29 11
It will provide a good source of tax revenue for state and local governments 56 30 13
Government regulation of marijuana would make it safer for those who use it 47 36 16
You do not believe marijuana is harmful to people who use it 35 43 19
Gallup, May 15-30, 2019

Marijuana legalization supporters are less likely to say that increasing the drug's safety through government regulation or believing that marijuana is not harmful are very important reasons they hold the opinion they do.

The results are based on a May 15-30 Gallup poll that sought to explore some of the reasons behind Americans' opinions for, or against, making marijuana legal.

Gallup has documented a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans favoring legal marijuana in the past decade, from 44% in 2009 to 64% in the current survey. Gallup has measured support as high as 66% in an October 2018 update. In 1969, the first time Gallup polled on the issue, just 12% were in favor of legalizing marijuana.

For the most part, different subgroups of marijuana legalization advocates are similar in their stated reasons for supporting legal marijuana. One modest difference concerns the importance of tax revenue for state and local governments, something that 63% of male supporters versus 50% of female supporters regard as very important.

Opponents Most Often Point to Driver Safety

The roughly one-third of Americans who oppose legalization were asked to say how important each of six factors is to their position on the issue. Foremost among these is the possibility of increased car accidents involving drivers who use marijuana -- 79% say this is a very important reason they oppose legalizing the drug.

Additionally, at least six in 10 opponents rate three other factors as very important reasons behind their objections: the possibility that marijuana users would try stronger and more addictive drugs; the potential for marijuana usage to increase; and that legalizing marijuana would not benefit society much. A slim majority of opponents cite its potential harm to users.

Opponents are least likely to say that a personal belief that drug use is immoral is a key factor for them, with 43% citing this as a very important reason they oppose making marijuana legal.

Legal Marijuana Opponents' Reasons for Not Wanting to Make It Legal
Please say whether each of the following is a very important reason why you oppose legalizing marijuana, a somewhat important reason or not an important reason. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?
Very important Somewhat important Not important
% % %
It would increase the number of car accidents involving drivers who use marijuana 79 12 8
It would lead to more people using stronger and more addictive drugs 69 18 13
It would encourage more people to use marijuana 62 21 17
Legalizing marijuana would not benefit society or individuals much 60 21 18
You believe marijuana is harmful to people who use it 54 22 24
You believe the use of drugs, including marijuana, is immoral 43 25 31
Gallup, May 15-30, 2019

There are no meaningful differences in reasons for opposing marijuana legalization among different subgroups of opponents.

Implications

Roughly two-thirds of the U.S. states currently allow marijuana use for medical reasons, and Illinois is poised to become the 11th state to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. More states are considering making recreational use legal through either the legislative process or voter referendums. Also, nearly every Democratic 2020 presidential candidate favors making the drug legal. These trends in public policy are consistent with public opinion on the issue, and could lead to a day when marijuana use is legal nationwide.

The most compelling reason for legalization, according to those who hold that position, is the help it gives to those who use it for medicinal purposes. Also, supporters tend to point to the possible benefits legal pot would have on law enforcement, state and local governments, and personal freedom. A "lack of harm" for users does not appear to a be a major reason why people want marijuana legalized.

Opponents, though smaller in number, point more to the societal risks, including those related to car accidents and marijuana users trying more potent drugs that likely would have a greater societal cost for those who become addicted.

View complete question responses and trends.

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/258149/medical-aid-top-reason-why-legal-marijuana-favored.aspx
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