The United States is currently in the midst of a massive cultural shift about marijuana, and a new poll reveals exactly how much attitudes have changed. The new Hill-HarrisX poll, which surveyed 1,001 people from April 12 to 13 this year, doesn’t just show how a vast majority of Americans support legal marijuana. It also shows how fewer people support criminalizing and punishing people who consume or distribute cannabis.
Only 13 Percent of People Support Criminalizing Cannabis Consumers
The Hill-HarrisX poll surveyed 481 men and 520 women (but apparently no gender non-conforming individuals) about their views on marijuana. The survey asked participants to identify with one of four views: marijuana should be legal for any use; legal just for medical use; illegal but only distributors should face prosecution; illegal and both consumers and distributors should face prosecution.
According to the poll data, just 133 participants, or 13 percent, felt that marijuana should be illegal and anyone caught using or distributing it should face prosecution. Even fewer folks, roughly 3 percent, identified with keeping weed illegal but decriminalizing simple use and possession. Men and women held both of these positions in equal amounts.
84 Percent of People Support Legalizing Some Form of Cannabis
Compared with the 16 percent of people who support some form of criminalization, 84 percent of those polled said they supported legalizing some form of cannabis. Views were split evenly on the question of recreational or medical. 42 percent of survey participants said marijuana should be legal for any use. But more men identified with this view than women, 47 to 37 percent respectively.
Conversely, 42 percent of those polled said they think marijuana should be legal just for medical use, but more women than men identified with this view. 46 percent of women felt only medical marijuana should be legal, compared with 37 percent of men.
Marijuana Legalization Supported Across Race, Gender Age Groups
A majority of people in all age categories support legal marijuana. But the form of legalization people support changes based on age. For the 18-34 and 35-49 age groups, support for full legalization outweighs support for medical only legalization. But in the 50-64 group, and much more dramatically in the 65 and up group, support for medical only legalization surpasses support for full legalization.
White, Black, Hispanic and Asian survey participants all supported full legalization to roughly the same degree. According to the poll, 47 percent of Black respondents support full legalization—the highest—compared with 38 percent of Asian respondents—the lowest. When it comes to medical use, 42 percent of both Black and White participants support it, compared with 51 percent of Hispanic people but just 25 percent of Asian people.
Political Affiliation Still Determines Views on Cannabis
Despite the similarities across race, gender and age, political affiliation played the biggest difference in the survey. According to the poll data, Republicans were more in favor of medical use than Democrats, more of whom favored full legalization.
Similarly, Republicans were more than three times more likely to favor total criminalization than Democrats. Yet those who “lean conservative” or identified as strong conservatives still favored medical legalization over criminalization.
Public Policy Seriously Out of Step with Public Opinion on Weed
Ultimately, this latest public opinion poll reveals one thing. Public opinion is drastically ahead of public policy on the issue of marijuana legalization. 84 percent of people surveyed support legalizing cannabis in some form. Yet many state and federal lawmakers remain staunchly opposed to a policy change their constituents overwhelmingly support.