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Overwhelming majority of US adults say cannabis should be legalized

The research also found that only 11% of Americans said the drug should not be legal for any reason.
Overwhelming majority of US adults say cannabis should be legalized
Posted at 3:39 PM, Mar 28, 2024

Americans appear to continue to see a need for change with U.S. cannabis laws. New research data from Pew found that an overwhelming 88% of U.S. adults say that cannabis should be legalized for medical or recreational use. 

Pew found that, in an environment where most Americans live in a state that has legalized the plant and products made from it for certain reasons, having exposure to at least one dispensary in their communities has opened more people up to the idea that total legalization would be OK, it seems. 

The survey split up choices in various ways based on beliefs about how the plant should be used and was conducted between Jan. 16 and Jan. 21. 

In survey data out this week, Pew found that almost 57% of Americans say they believe cannabis should be legal for both recreational and medical reasons, while 32% said cannabis should only be legalized for medical use. 

SEE MORE: FDA recommends reclassifying marijuana; says it has medicinal purpose

One interesting aspect of the data is how Americans view the impact legalizing cannabis for recreational use might have on safety and encouraging the use of other substances. 

29% of Americans said they believe cannabis increases the use of other drugs, while about the same — at 27% — said they believe it would decrease the use of other substances including cocaine, fentanyl and heroin. 42% said cannabis would have no impact on the use of other substances. 

And when it comes to beliefs about safety in the community, 34% of Americans surveyed said legalizing cannabis makes communities less safe while 21% said legalizing cannabis makes communities safer.

And, beliefs about the legalization of cannabis were impacted by politics — the majority, 64%, of those who identify as a Democrat, or who lean towards being Democratic said the believe legalizing cannabis is good for local economies, and 58% said cannabis legalization creates a more fair justice system. 

41% of Republican respondents said legalizing cannabis for recreational use has a positive impact on local economies, and 27% said legalization has a positive impact on the criminal justice system. 

Those views were altered when age was factored in, with a majority 57% of Republicans between 18 to 29 years old who said they believe cannabis should be legalized for recreations and medical use — 52% of Republicans between 30 to 49 years old said the same. 

Pew found that "wide majorities" of Republicans of all age groups favors cannabis legalization for medical use. 

Across all racial and ethnic groups, Pew found that about 4 out of 10 U.S. adults believe cannabis legalization for recreational use makes the U.S. criminal justice system fairer. 

For the study, Pew Research Center uses randomly selected U.S. adults who participate in self-administered web surveys. Pew said it used an oversample non-Hispanic Black men, Hispanic men and non-Hispanic Asian adults to "provide more precise" estimate of "opinions and experiences of these smaller demographic subgroups."


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