The majority of Americans, including the public and lawmakers, want to legalise cannabis
Americans’ attitudes towards cannabis legalisation have changed over the past few years.
Three decades ago, in 1980, a poll revealed that only 24 percent of Americans supported cannabis legalisation. Things appear to have changed since then. The most significant change is shown by 33 states legalising cannabis in some form.
By 2018, nearly 66% of Americans offered their approval, transforming cannabis legalisation after realising its benefits to physical and mental well-being. Over the last quarter of a century, ten states have legalised recreational cannabis, while the drug is legal for medical purpose in a further 22 states.
Growth in public support for cannabis legalisation
Nearly 62% of Americans favour the legalisation of cannabis, which reflects a steady increase over the past decade. The percentage of U.S. adults supporting legalisation has changed from 61% in 2017.
There are generational and partisan differences in views and people’s attitudes towards cannabis legalisation. Nearly 74% of Millennials, 63% of Gen Xers, and 54% of Baby Boomers say the use of cannabis should be legal. Similarly, 39% of the members of the Silent Generation have also become more supportive in the past year.
About seven in ten Democrats and 75% of independents think that cannabis use should be legal. Republicans are divided, as 45% supported legalising marijuana and 51% opposed it.
The increasing public support for legal cannabis resulted from the growing number of states legalising the drug for medical or recreational use in recent years.
The District of Columbia and nine U.S. states have legalised cannabis for recreational purposes. Medical cannabis is legal in over half of the states and the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
Legislators giving a green signal to cannabis legalisation
About 1 in 4 Americans are living in a state where the adult consumption of cannabis is legal. Thirty three states regulate medical cannabis access by statute, and no state has repealed a cannabis legalisation law.
In addition to this, 2019 has been a progressive year for state-level reforms in regards to cannabis. Illinois lawmakers recently voted to legalise cannabis sales for adult consumption, making it the 11th state to legalise the drug outright.
Similarly, lawmakers in three states, Hawaii, North Dakota, and New Mexico, have stepped towards decriminalising the possession of cannabis. At the same time, the New York legislature voted in favour of expanding the existing decriminalisation regulations. If this law passes, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis will become a fine-only offense.
Moreover, over a dozen states, including Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, have passed legislation to expunge past cannabis convictions.
A number of municipalities countrywide, such as Louisville, Cincinnati, Kentucky, and Macon, enacted ordinances decriminalising cannabis-related activities. Similarly, prosecutors in numerous cities, such as Baltimore, New York, and Norfolk, have announced that offenders with low-level cannabis possession will not be charged.
The perceived risk of consuming cannabis has lessened
People are increasingly becoming familiar with the benefits of cannabis. Many studies have shown that cannabis contains chemical compounds that provide relief from issues like chronic pain.
Many studies also revealed that cannabis could help to treat some mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Evidence also suggests that oral cannabinoids can treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
Because of an increasing number of studies on identifying and revealing the medical benefits of cannabis and due to extensive media coverage, people’s attitude towards cannabis is changing significantly.
Because of all these reasons, the attitude of Americans is changing towards cannabis, and the majority of voters see it as a beneficial substance. It is not only the public, but lawmakers are also focusing on making the drug legal. In the years to come, we will see even more states legalising the recreation and medical use of cannabis.