For 1st Time, Majority of Americans Favor Marijuana Legalization

For the first time, a majority of Americans are now in favor of legalizing marijuana, a dramatic shift of public opinion, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

The survey of 1,500 adults found that 52 percent of Americans say marijuana should be made legal, while 4 percent are against it.

Broken down by age group, young people, not surprisingly, are the most supportive of marijuana legalization. Sixty-five  percent of millennials – people born since 1980 and now between ages 18 and 32 – favor legalizing the use of marijuana, up from just 36 percent in 2008. But baby boomers also have seen a jump, with 50 percent now favoring legalization, compared to 17 percent in 1990 and 24 percent in 1994.

As for marijuana use, the numbers also are increasing, with 48 percent saying they have tried marijuana, up from 38 percent a decade ago. Roughly half  of the respondents in every age group, except for those 65 and older, say they have tried marijuana. And 12 percent say they have used marijuana in the past year — 27 percent of those, younger than 30.

Most Americans also agree that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth (72 percent); while 60 percent say that the federal government should not enforce federal laws prohibiting the use of marijuana in states where it is legal. Last fall, voters in Colorado and Washington state approved the use of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

There is a partisan divide on the legalization issue, with 59 percent of Democrats and 60 percent on Independents favoring it. Thirty-seven percent of Republicans favor legalization and 60 percent oppose it.

But there wasn’t much difference in views on the government response: 67 percent of Republicans and 71 percent of Democrats say federal enforcement of marijuana laws is not worth the cost.

While Americans increasingly support legalizing marijuana, many people still do not like the idea of people using it around them; 51 percent say they would feel uncomfortable if people around them were using marijuana, while 48 percent would not feel uncomfortable.

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