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For First Time Ever, Majority of Americans Say: Legalize It!

Americans' support for legalization of marijuana has quadrupled since 1969

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Everybody must get stoned. Three years after Bob Dylan penned these lyrics, a scant 12 percent of the nation believed marijuana should be legal. On Wednesday national pollsters Gallup announced that, for the first time, the majority of Americans want to legalize it.

With 58 percent support, the number of those favoring the drug has jumped a dramatic 10 percentage points since November 2012—with the momentum showing "no sign of abating," Gallup notes.

The pollsters cite "changing social mores" and the "increasing prevalence of medical marijuana as a socially acceptable means of alleviating symptoms of diseases such as arthritis, and as a way to mitigate side effects of chemotherapy" as possible reasons for its growing acceptance. Also, they note that the success of legalization initiatives in both Colorado and Washington this past year may have "increased Americans' tolerance" for legal marijuana.

"Whatever the reasons," writes Art Swift, Gallup's managing editor, "it is likely that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts across the United States."

Gallup notes that this growth has specifically been among Independent voters of whom sixty-two percent now support legalization, up 12 points from November 2012. There has been little change among Democrat and Republican voters.

"Public opinion isn't merely rising on marijuana legalization, it's accelerating," notes Kevin Drum of Mother Jones. "The rate of increase has gone from about 0.5 points per year in the 90s to 1.5 points in the aughts to 4 points so far in the teens." Drum estimates that by 2020 this social shift may start to become codified into law nationwide.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger demographics prefer legalization. Americans 65 and older are now the only age group whose majority still opposes legalizing marijuana.

"With Americans' support for legalization quadrupling since 1969, and localities on the East Coast such as Portland, Maine, considering a symbolic referendum to legalize marijuana," Swift continues, "it is clear that interest in this drug and these issues will remain elevated in the foreseeable future."


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