With a growing number of states authorizing the use of cannabis, the public continues to broadly favor the legalization of the drug for medical and adult-use purposes.
An overwhelming share of U.S. adults (88%) say either that cannabis should be legal for medical and adult use (59%) or that it should be legal for medical use only (30%). Just one in ten (10%) say cannabis use should not be legal, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted October 10-16, 2022. These views have been virtually unchanged since April 2021.
The new survey follows President Joe Biden’s decision to pardon people convicted of cannabis possession at the federal level and direct his administration to review how marijuana is classified under federal law. It was fielded before the November 8 midterm elections, when two states legalized the use of cannabis for adult-use purposes – joining 19 states and the District of Columbia, which had already done so.
Over the long term, there has been a steep rise in public support for cannabis legalization, as measured by a separate Gallup survey question that asks whether the use of cannabis should be made legal – without specifying whether it would be legalized for recreational or medical use. This year, 68% of adults say cannabis should be legal, matching the record-high support for legalization Gallup found in 2021.
There continue to be sizable age and partisan differences in Americans’ views about cannabis. While very small shares of adults of any age are completely opposed to the legalization of the drug, older adults are far less likely than younger ones to favor legalizing it for adult-use purposes.
This is particularly the case among those ages 75 and older, just three in ten of whom say cannabis should be legal for both medical and adult use. Larger shares in every other age group – including 53% of those ages 65 to 74 – say the drug should be legal for both medical and adult use.
Republicans are more wary than Democrats about legalizing cannabis for adult use: 45% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents favor legalizing cannabis for both medical and adult use, while an additional 39% say it should only be legal for medical use. By comparison, 73% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say cannabis should be legal for both medical and adult use; an additional 21% say it should be legal for medical use only.
Ideological differences are evident within each party. About four-in-ten conservative Republicans (37%) say cannabis should be legal for medical and adult use, compared with a 60% majority of moderate and liberal Republicans.
Nearly two-thirds of conservative and moderate Democrats (63%) say cannabis should be legal for medical and adult use. An overwhelming majority of liberal Democrats (84%) say the same.
There also are racial and ethnic differences in views of legalizing cannabis. Roughly two-thirds of Black adults (68%) and six-in-ten White adults say cannabis should be legal for medical and adult use, compared with smaller shares of Hispanic (49%) and Asian adults (48%).
In both parties, views of cannabis legalization vary by age
While Republicans and Democrats differ greatly on whether cannabis should be legal for medical and adult use, there are also age divides within each party.
A 62% majority of Republicans, ages 18 to 29, favor making cannabis legal for medical and adult use, compared with 52% of those ages 30 to 49. Roughly four-in-ten Republicans ages 50 to 64 (41%) and 65 to 74 (38%) say cannabis should be legal for both purposes, as do 18% of those 75 and older.
Still, wide majorities of Republicans in all age groups favor legalizing cannabis for medical use. Even among Republicans 65 and older, just 17% say cannabis use should not be legal, even for medical purposes.
While majorities of Democrats across all age groups support legalizing cannabis for medical and adult use, older Democrats are less likely to say this. About half of Democrats ages 75 and older (51%) say cannabis should be legal for medical or adult purposes; larger shares of younger Democrats say the same. Still, only 8% of Democrats 75 and older think cannabis should not be legalized even for medical use – similar to the share of all other Democrats who say this.
For more information:
Pew Research Center