Here’s What Researchers Found When They Asked Americans Why They Support Marijuana Legalization

A new Gallup poll identifies health and safety as underlying reasons for cannabis support or opposition in the United States.

A new nationwide survey offers some insight into why Americans either support or oppose marijuana legalization.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, 86 percent of Americans who favor marijuana legalization view the substances’ medicinal benefits as “very important” in their reasoning behind making it legal. Of Americans who do not favor marijuana legalization, 79 percent said the risk of increased car crashes was a “very important” reason for their opposition.

According to the poll, 64 percent of respondents favor marijuana legalization, 34 percent oppose legalization and 2 percent did not answer.

The Gallup Poll was conducted via telephone interviews from May 15-30. A randomly selected sample of 1,017 adults (aged 18 years and over) living in the U.S. or the District of Columbia participated in the survey.

The latest polling is a near complete flip from public opinion nearly 20 years ago. A Gallup Poll from August 2001 that surveyed public attitudes on whether the use of marijuana should be made legal found that just 34 percent of Americans supported legalization, while 62 percent were opposed.

Support for marijuana legalization has steadily increased in the past several decades. The first Gallup Poll inquiring about public opinion on marijuana legalization was conducted in 1969. At the time, only 12 percent of Americans favored legalization. Gallup is a renowned analytics company which statistically evaluates public opinion through representative samples.

Why Americans Support Marijuana Legalization

The Gallup data reveals a link between health and safety as underlying concerns for marijuana legalization.

Those who favored marijuana legalization where asked to rank six reasons, in order from very important to not important, why it was important to them that marijuana be legal.

Respondents ranked the most important reason for making marijuana legal as follows:

  • 86 percent said marijuana should be legal because it helps people who use it for medical reasons.
  • 70 percent said marijuana should be legal because it would free up law enforcement to focus on other types of crime.
  • 60 percent said cannabis use should not be prohibited because it is a matter of freedom and personal choice.
  • 56 percent said that marijuana should be legal because it would provide a good source of tax revenue for state and local governments.
  • 47 percent said regulation by the government will make marijuana safer to use.
  • 35 percent said marijuana should be legal because is not harmful to those who use it.

Why Americans Oppose Marijuana Legalization

Of the respondents who did not favor marijuana legalization, driver safety ranked number one for the most important reasons of opposition at nearly 80 percent.

When asked to rank reasons for opposing marijuana legalization, those ranked in order of importance were:

  • 69 percent had the belief that marijuana legalization would lead to people using other addictive substances
  • 62 percent said they thought that marijuana legalization would cause more people to use cannabis
  • 60 percent said that cannabis legalization would not benefit society
  • 54 percent argued that cannabis is harmful to those who use it
  • 43 percent said they consider the use of cannabis immoral

 Marijuana Supporting Demographics

Gallup Poll Demographics

The Gallup Poll also offered insight into the demographics of those who support and oppose marijuana legalization. A breakdown of the age groups of respondents show that younger age Americans show the strongest support for legalization. The poll suggests 76 percent of those favoring cannabis legalization are ages 18-34, while the biggest percentage of respondents who oppose legalization were 55 and over.

No significant difference was found in the gender identification of respondents who supported legalization, with 65 percent being male-identified and 62 percent female-identified. Of those who oppose marijuana legalization, female opposition was slightly higher.

The education level of respondents indicated that the majority of those who support legalization are college graduates or have some college experience, while the majority of those who oppose legalization are high school graduates or under.

Of the 1,017 respondents, 286 identified as Republican, 429 identified as Independent, and 290 identified as Democrat. According to the poll, the largest percentage in support of legalization was Democrats. The largest percentage opposing legalization was Republican.

More than half of those polled identified as white.

Who Supports Marijuana Legalization

The findings of the recent Gallup poll are aligned with other reports about those who support marijuana legalization. Another recent Gallup Poll found Democratic support for marijuana legalization to be at an all-time high.

As support for marijuana legalization grows, a push for change in federal and state laws has been voiced by voters. A surge of Democratic legislators have responded to that message by coming out in support of marijuana reform.

Evidence of this can be found in the large pool of pro-cannabis candidates in the upcoming nomination. More than 20 Democrats have entered the 2020 presidential race, with all but one supporting some form of marijuana reform.

Studies on Driving Safety and Marijuana

Although fear of an increased risk of car crashes was ranked the most important reason people oppose marijuana legalization in the Gallup Poll, recent studies have shown no scientific evidence to support that theory. In a study released last month in the journal Addiction, researchers in British Columbia examined vehicle accidents resulting in driver injuries to find out if THC was responsible for the accident.

The team of researchers found no evidence that drivers with low levels of THC were at more risk of crash. The same study found a “statistically non-significant increase in crash responsibility” for drivers with a slightly higher percentage of THC in their system.

Other recent studies reported on by Medical Marijuana, Inc. have shown similar findings. A Kansas State University study found no connection linking marijuana use and an increase in fatal car crashes. A recent report from the Colorado Department of Transportation showed the instances of police arrests for driving under the influence of marijuana had declined in the state.

In order to find out more about the potential risk of driving under the influence of marijuana, a Congressional Research Report was ordered. The report released in May, Marijuana Use and Highway Safety, concluded that research on the matter has not been able to “consistently correlate levels of marijuana consumption, or THC in a person’s body, and levels of impairment.”

“Thus some researchers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, have observed that using a measure of THC as evidence of a driver’s impairment is not supported by scientific evidence to date,” the report’s author stated.
Does Marijuana Legalization Lead to Car Accidents?

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