On the heels of another giant election night, new polling numbers released by Gallup show nearly seven-in-ten Americans support legalizing the possession and use of marijuana by adults.
When Gallup originally started tracking legalization support numbers in 1969, only 12 percent of Americans supported the idea. The 1970s would see support break a quarter of Americans for the first time, but the Reagan era saw the numbers dip as he hit the gas pedal on the drug war.
Eventually, the numbers would peak at 58 percent with the first round of legal marijuana states. Following the major success, it would dip again to just over half of Americans supporting legal marijuana. It has been climbing for the most part ever since and is now 10 points higher. It’s important to note that at the turn of the millennium, only a third of Americans supported legalization. It’s reasonable to say the success of medical cannabis in California and the states that followed played a large role in changing hearts and minds nationally.
Advocates jumped on the news of the tide continuing to shift in their favor. But it’s tough to shock them with these kinds of numbers. People like the National Cannabis Industry Association saw it coming.
“It should come as no surprise that support for making cannabis legal continues to climb as more states regulate the substance and voters are able to see the benefits of legal cannabis markets,” NCIA co-founder Aaron Smith said of the news. “When more than two thirds of Americans support legalization and now more than one third live in legal states, we are quickly approaching a tipping point for cannabis policy. Federal lawmakers need to listen to their constituents and support sensible comprehensive reforms now.”
As NCIA saw it, even the less exciting parts of the polling data still had positives takeaways. They noted despite the poll showing slightly less than majority support among respondents who identify as Republicans nationally, “voters in the conservative states of Mississippi, Montana, and South Dakota approved adult use or medical initiatives by wide margins on Election Day. Voters in Arizona and New Jersey also approved adult use measures on Tuesday in record numbers.” NCIA spoke to older Americans trailing younger generations a bit, but the support is still there with 55 percent of senior citizens now in support of legalization.
The nation’s oldest cannabis policy organization is hoping the data and election results continue to inspire further progress.
“In national polls and at the ballot box, the American public has spoken loudly and clearly,” NORML’s Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “The overwhelming majority of Americans favor ending the failed policies of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a policy of legalization, regulation, taxation and public education. Elected officials – at both the state and federal level – ought to be listening.”
Alteri pointed to the amount of time the American people have now had to witness state-legal cannabis markets in operation creating revenue and increasing public safety.
“There is no buyer’s remorse on the part of the American people,” he said. “In the era of state-level legalization, voters’ support for this issue has grown rapidly – an indication that these policy changes have been successful and are comporting with voters’ desires and expectations. Today, voters of every age and in virtually every region of the country agree that marijuana should be legal.”
Alteri closed by arguing there is a mandate from the American people “and we intend to make sure that elected officials abide by it.”
With that mandate in mind, the leadership of the congressional effort to reform cannabis laws, Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), did speak to the results of the election in a statement earlier this week.
“One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies, and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws,” Blumenauer and Lee wrote. “There’s no question: cannabis prohibition will end soon. We should lead the way by passing H.R.3884 – Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.”
In the statement, the pair also noted that “the House leadership asserted that the MORE Act – landmark legislation to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act and enact restorative justice for communities of color most impacted by the failed cannabis prohibition – would receive a vote on the House floor next month.”
“The recent success of cannabis reform in states around the country should give us a new sense of urgency to ensure Congress catches up with the American people,” Blumenauer and Lee added. “This is a critical issue of racial justice, and the failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color, especially Black and brown communities. We can no longer ignore our duty to repair the damage that this harmful form of systemic racism has done.”
And for a final piece of positive cannabis news to encapsulate the week’s progress, The Last Prisoner Project announced the country’s longest-serving cannabis prisoner Richard DeLisi is being released after serving 31 years of a 90-year sentence. Hopefully, we’ll continue to hear more stories like this one in addition to the industry’s progress.