Republican Support for Marijuana Legalization at an All-Time High

According to a new poll, 45 percent of Republicans believe marijuana use by adults should be legalized nationally. The surge in support, up 5 percent after just 7 months, is likely related to a shifting attitude that marijuana prohibition is ineffective.

The results in a recent poll from YouGov indicate that for the first time Republicans are shifting toward supporting marijuana legalization. The survey, conducted in July, found that Republicans narrowly support the legalization of adult use marijuana, 45 percent to 42 percent. Thirteen percent of Republicans said they were “not sure.”

For a better idea on how significant attitudes have changed among Republicans recently, consider poll results in recent years. In the same survey done by YouGov last December, Republicans opposed marijuana legalization by 50 percent to 36 percent. Earlier, in January 2014, 60 percent of Republicans responded they were opposed to legalizing marijuana, compared to only 28 percent who voiced they were in support.

While the results align with the shift toward overall greater support for marijuana legalization throughout the U.S., there is also evidence that Republicans overall attitude regarding marijuana has not changed. Forty-three percent of Republicans continue to view marijuana as a gateway to harder drugs, however 54 percent of Republicans believe the government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they’re worth. The results suggest, therefore, that Republicans are in support of legalization not because they believe marijuana to be harmless, but because they believe the war on drugs and prohibition to be ineffective.

That argument serves as the foundation for the Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition organization, founded by lifelong Republican Ann Lee, which actively supports the end to marijuana prohibition.

“The reality is, despite harsh penalties, nearly $8 billion per year of law enforcement funding, and a six-fold increase in the nation’s prison population, the rate of marijuana use has held steady since the 1970’s,” the organization says on their website. “Similar to alcohol prohibition, a black-market in the drug trade provides immense profits to criminals and a trail of violence in their wake.”

Representative Dana Rohrabacher in California was the first Republican congressman to announce support for legalizing recreational marijuana. Rep. Rohrabacher also was the first sitting congressman to admit to using medical marijuana in 2016.

“If they put it on the ballot that they would legalize it, I’d probably support that ballot measure,” Rep. Rohrabacher said in a phone interview in 2014. “By providing the federal government the right to control personal behavior, it’s totally contradictory to what our country is all about.”

The survey found that 55 percent of American adults overall think the use of marijuana should be legalized. Sixty-three percent of Democrats were found to be in support of legalization, compared to 55 percent of independent voters.

Come November, nine states could have cannabis laws that allow marijuana for adult recreational use. As of now, four states – ColoradoWashingtonOregon, and Alaska – as well as Washington D.C., have passed adult use legislation. Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada have recreational marijuana initiatives that have qualified for this year’s ballot.