Following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 Presidential race and the subsequent appointment of Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General, many non-Republicans would assume that the party wouldn’t be supportive of cannabis legalization. According to a groundbreaking new Gallup poll, that is not the case. For the first time in nearly 50 years of polling on the subject, a majority of Republicans (51%) are in favor of legalizing cannabis.
This Gallup poll also reveals that 72% of Democrats and 64% of the entire U.S. population are in favor of cannabis legalization and reform. Both groups also have the highest favorability ratings on record. The Democratic party was the first partisan entity to see a majority of its members in favor cannabis reform. However, that didn’t occur until 2009.
Cannabis Favorability Ratings Have Skyrocketed
When Gallup first began polling the public opinion of cannabis in 1969, support from the entire U.S. populations was a meager 12%. While that number nearly doubled during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, it hovered around 23% from 1984 to 1996. After 1996 however, the number has continued to steadily climb. The pace at which cannabis favorability has risen is similar to that of same-sex marriage. Both issues saw favorability around 25% in the late 1990’s and now each has 64% favorability in Gallup polling.
A promising aspect of this poll is the newfound accountability it provides Republican leadership with. An increase in Republican cannabis support means that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may face push back from members of his own party, should he attempt to use DOJ money to prosecute states who have already legalized medical marijuana. However, it is unlikely that a 51% favorability will push Republicans to act on federal cannabis legalization.
Favorability ratings are expected to continue to rise. In the past 6 years alone, support for cannabis legalization has risen by 20%. At the moment, more than one in five Americans live in a state where cannabis is legal and 8 states and Washington D.C. have laws that completely legalise cannabis use – for both medicinal and recreational use.
Opinions Changing Based On New Evidence
An increase in the amount of public information available on the subject has contributed to the sway in public opinion. The anti-intellectual “reefer madness” of old has been replaced by many studies advocating the efficacy and safety of cannabis. A popular and notorious opinion used to be that cannabis is a gateway drug. But since certain states have legalized cannabis, those states have seen a 23% decrease in the number of opioid hospitalizations and a 13% reduction in the number of opioid related deaths. Fears about marijuana legalization increasing accessibility for children were also unfounded. Since Colorado legalized cannabis in 2014, marijuana use amongst teens has seen a substantial decline.
Public polling is one of the many factors that contribute to the way an issue is legislated. Politicians rarely act on legislation that their constituents do not favor. While Republican cannabis support is far from 100%, it will continue to rise. As it does, the pressure for politicians to act on federal cannabis laws will continue to mount.
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Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.