The proportion of Americans that support the legalization of marijuana has risen to a new height, a Gallup poll published Wednesday suggests, as states continue to relax laws on cannabis for recreational and medicinal use.
A survey of more than 1,000 adults across the United States conducted earlier this month found that 58 percent — the highest recorded share of respondents in polls thus far — believe marijuana should be legal. From 2010 to 2012, support for the drug among Americans 18 or older averaged about 48 percent, according to a Gallup report on the survey.
Less than a half-century ago in 1969, support for marijuana legalization among the same group was just 12 percent, but it has “has grown steadily over time,” the report said.
Gallup attributed the mounting support to more young adults who support marijuana legalization than in previous generations. Just 20 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds approved of legalization in 1969, but 71 percent of that cohort approves of legalization today.
The number of senior citizens who support legalization has also grown, from 4 percent in 1969 to 35 percent today.
Marijuana use has increased along with approval for legalization, another report published Wednesday shows. A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism survey conducted in 2001 and 2002 showed that 4.1 percent of Americans had used marijuana — a number that more than doubled, to 9.5 percent, in 2012 and 2013, according to a report on the poll in JAMA Psychiatry journal.
The Gallup report said that a higher level of support for marijuana correlates with legislative movement on legalization.
“The higher level of support comes as many states and localities are changing or considering changing their laws on marijuana,” the report said.
Four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use. Ohio is set to vote on whether to legalize marijuana for all purposes in a Nov. 3 poll. Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, including California and New York, and in Washington, D.C.
Support may continue to grow in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
“Several candidates have expressed a willingness to let states set their own marijuana laws even though federal law prohibits marijuana use,” the Gallup report said.