Weed is in the air this 4/20, and not just literally. Sixty-one percent of Americans are now in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a CBS News poll released Thursday.
That’s the highest mark this particular poll has ever found, and it’s not an outlier. Similar surveys taken over the past year have shown that public support for legal cannabis is higher now than it has ever been before.
Widespread acceptance of legalization ― itself a rejection of the longstanding federal prohibition on marijuana ― is a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S. The nation first reached majority support for legalizing weed in 2013, when polls showed slightly more than 50 percent of Americans favoring the move. Although approval fluctuated somewhat after that, a number of surveys conducted over the past year have shown support for legal recreational marijuana crossing the 60 percent threshold, with fewer and fewer Americans expressing opposition.
Just 33 percent of respondents oppose legalizing marijuana, according to the most recent CBS poll. Support for legal medical marijuana was overwhelming, with 88 percent of respondents expressing approval.
There continues to be a significant generational divide in support for legalization. Thirty-seven percent of respondents over age 65 support legal marijuana, compared to at least 60 percent of respondents from all other age groups.
Although the issue of legalization continues to split along partisan lines, the poll found that 46 percent of Republicans support the move and that 49 percent oppose it. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents support legal weed.
The growing acceptance of legal marijuana comes as states continue to challenge the federal government’s insistence that marijuana is a dangerous drug with no therapeutic value and a high potential for abuse. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have now approved cannabis for recreational use, although sales remain banned in the nation’s capitol. A total of 29 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, with the latest addition coming this week in West Virginia.
It’s not clear if the government is getting the message. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ― who has stated his personal opposition to weed ― has worried some marijuana advocates with ominous comments about the supposed dangers of loosening restrictions on the nation’s favorite illicit substance.
Sessions likely won’t have much public support if he pushes back against state marijuana laws, however. According to the CBS poll, 71 percent of Americans would oppose the government taking action to try to stop the sale and use of marijuana in these states.
CBS surveyed 1,011 adults between April 11 and April 15, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.