by Eric PfeifferSupport for marijuana legalization has surged since 2000 According to the latest Gallup survey, 58 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Gallup says the poll culminates a year of “unprecedented success” for marijuana advocates and is almost certainly the harbinger of future legalization efforts. Support for legalization has climbed more than 10 percent in the past year alone. “Whatever the reasons for Americans' greater acceptance of marijuana, it is likely that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts across the United States,” Gallup says in its analysis of the poll.
And as Gallup points out, the 58 percent support for legalization is a stark contrast to the group's first legalization poll in 1969, in which only 12 percent of respondents said they favored making marijuana legal.
Gallup also found that 38 percent of respondents said they had personally tried marijuana at some point.
The largest area of growth has been among independent voters, 62 percent of whom now say they support legalization. Sixty-five percent of self-identified Democrats say they also support legalization. Republicans remain the only significant voting block opposed to legalization with just 35 percent support such an effort.
There is a also a direct correlation between legalization support and age, with voters over 65 representing the only age block opposed to legalization. Fifty-three percent of voters 65 and older say they oppose legalization, compared with just 31 percent of voters aged 18 to 29.
An August memo from U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole stated that the federal government will not attempt to interfere with Washington and Colorado’s efforts to implement marijuana legalization laws passed by state voters.
That decision recently was criticized by Craig T. Steckler, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Steckler used his introduction of Attorney General Eric Holder at a public address this week to criticize the administration’s stance on marijuana laws.
"We have entered a slippery slope that will be hard to turn away from," Steckler said, adding that his organization’s relationship with the Justice Department was akin to a “contentious marriage.”
While not directly responding to the policy criticisms, Holder did joke in his response, “"We may need marriage counseling."
Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medicinal marijuana use for patients who receive written permission from a doctor.
Several states are planning legalization ballot initiatives set for 2014, including California, Alaska, Arizona and Oregon. Other states, including Rhode Island and Hawaii, are planning legalization initiatives for 2016 to coincide with the next presidential election.
A recent poll found that 65 percent of voters in California favor legalization, a move that has been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Because of Colorado and Washington, it’s created a cannabis tidal wave across the country,” marijuana activist Mike Jolson said in an interview with Bloomberg. “We want to capitalize on this wave.”