By November 20, 2013 6 Comments Read More →

What Does America Think About Cannabis?

WIKI - Cannabis_sativa_plantRuss Belville, National Cannabis Coalition
Waking Times

Now that two states have legalized marijuana use for adults and twenty states have protections for medical use of cannabis, it is clear that American attitudes toward marijuana have changed drastically.  Here are five opinions that a majority of Americans hold toward pot, according to the latest opinion polls:

1)      Marijuana use by adults age 21 and older should be legal.

The Gallup organization made worldwide headlines last month when it proclaimed “For First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana”.  According to their latest poll, 58 percent of Americans supported legalization when asked “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?”  Indeed, this was the first time a majority supported legal marijuana in Gallup’s history of asking the question, dating back to 1969 when support was a dismal 12 percent.

However, Gallup’s was not the first poll showing majority support for legalization.  Rather than being a first or an outlier, Gallup merely confirmed what has been found in eleven polls since 2009.  Pollsters from Angus Reid Global Monitor (four polls ranging from 52% – 55%), Gallup (50% and 58%), Pew Center (52%), Public Policy Polling (58%), Rasmussen (56%), Zogby (52%), and Quinnipiac University (51%) have all discovered majority support for legalization.

Since Colorado and Washington passed marijuana legalization in 2012, only four polls have shown less than 50 percent support for legalization.  Interestingly, three come from news organizations (ABC News = 48%, CBS News = 47%, FOX News = 46%) and the other is Gallup’s 2012 poll of 48 percent that has been trumped by the 2013 poll at 58 percent.

2)      When a state legalizes marijuana, the federal government should let them.

After two states legalized recreational marijuana use, pollsters asked what the federal response should be.  A December HuffPost/YouGov poll found that 51 percent felt the feds should leave pot smokers alone in legal states.  Gallup found that 64 percent opposed the federal government taking steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in the newly-legalized states.

3)      Marijuana smokers should not be fired for off-work pot use if it is legal in their state.

This week, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll found that almost two-thirds of poll respondents – 64 percent – found it unacceptable to fire a marijuana user solely for after-hours pot smoking.  Those who found it acceptable numbered only 22 percent, with 14 percent in the “not sure” category.  Thus, for every person who thinks it is okay to fire a pot smoker, there are nearly three who find it unacceptable.

Even when the qualifier of “in a legal marijuana state” is removed from the question of whether it is acceptable to fire people for off-the-clock pot use, more people found it unacceptable than acceptable.  A plurality of 45 percent said the cannabis consumers should be able to keep their jobs, even if marijuana use is illegal, compared to the 32 percent who think it is okay to fire a pot smoker in a prohibition state, and 23 percent were “not sure”.

4)      Marijuana is definitely safer than alcohol.

As early as 2002, Zogby found that 47 percent of those surveyed believed alcohol was the most dangerous drug, followed by tobacco at 28 percent and marijuana at 20 percent.  In 2009, Rasmussen reported that 51 percent of its poll respondents agreed that marijuana was a safer substance to consume than alcohol.  In 2012, Public Policy Polling found that 45 percent of respondents felt marijuana is safer than alcohol, compared to 42 percent who disagreed and 12 percent who weren’t sure.

5)      Marijuana is medicine and patients should not be punished for choosing it.

Support for medical use of marijuana is so widespread and overwhelming it is difficult to imagine another political issue that has so much public support and so little political support.  The polling page at lists twenty-eight polls dating back to 1995 with support ranging from 60 percent to 85 percent, except for one poll of the American Society for Addiction Medicine (aka: Big Rehab) that found opinions split at 36 percent for, 26 percent neutral, and 38 percent opposed.

About the Author

, is the host and producer of The Russ Belville Show – The Independent Voice of the Marijuana Nation at – live from Portland, Oregon. I was the winner of The Search for the Next Great Progressive Talk Radio Star and a former host on XM Satellite Radio and Portland’s AM 620 KPOJ. I was the Outreach Coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws from 2008-2012, which included lecturing all across America on marijuana legalization, writing political analysis for HIGH TIMES Magazine, and producing over 1,000 hours of video content for The NORML Network.

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  • My concern is operating machinery etc. and driving under the influence. Marijuana stays in the system for much longer than alcohol. A universal level or performance test should be required of those who use marijuana. Alcoholics will tell you how great they can drive under the influence and I am sure cannabis users can also.

    I would love to see some scientific references that have tested performance of marijuana users. I have not researched it myself but, from personal experience, know that it distorts perception while driving.

  • noreen cerino

    I am personally of the opinion that pot should be totally decriminalized, and then the government should stay out of it. Period. As far as the government “authorizing its use as a privilege”, they never really had the right under our Constitution to make it illegal in the first place. The fact they also criminalized the growing of hemp (for no valid reason except to protect the special interests of a few) is ludicrous. Marijuana and hemp together could sustain a community. The medicinal uses of marijuana are just beginning to be investigated. The fact that a UV study done in 1973 clearly showed pot could rapidly shrink tumors in the brain and breast or lungs, curing cancer, the results were quickly buried and ignored by our government. This is truly despicable in light of all of those who instead of being cured, had to opt for receiving toxic doses of chemo cocktails which caused their hair to fall out while it killed all cells, cancerous or otherwise, leaving them sick and debilitated, and, in many cases, did nothing to improve their health. The uses for hemp are wide ranging and include the making of rope and cloth, body oil, biofuel, animal feed as well as for human consumption, and, as a building material, it is much stronger and more durable than wood. Most people don’t know Ford once built a hemp car that was virtually indestructible. God put this unique plant on our earth with its healing properties and myriad uses to be utilized by the people of the planet. How many plants will, and do, grow wild practically anywhere in the world? While the US government and several pharmaceutical companies hold patents on its medical uses, they haven’t quite been able to come up with a natural medical product (non-synthesized, unlike Marisol) to offer the public, nor should they be allowed to, in my opinion. There is no justification for either the government or Big Pharma to be able to control (and charge exorbitant prices for) a God given, non-toxic, natural cure which anyone can grow relatively cheaply. Once again, it comes down to greed and profits over people. Some people are of the opinion medical use is OK, but not when people will use it to get high (heaven forbid). To those people I say this. God put all these wonderful, healing properties into this beautiful, abundant plant. And then he added the additional property of creating a sense of euphoria in the user. So? Is there something wrong with feeling good, or perhaps crabby and out-of-sorts is better? Ever had a cocktail after work? If you strongly disapprove, the best advice is don’t partake.

  • Pamela

    Legalize the use, possession and propagation of Marijuana. NOT to tax but as a natural right. We are taxed enough already! Let us live in Liberty!

  • gmo2ashes

    Marijuana is “legalized” in two states, meaning only that the government is authorizing its use as a privilege, not as a natural right. You must still pay the government for the privilege.

    Maximum extraction of revenue, derived from production, distribution, and final consumption (as well as penalties for using pot outside the government’s guidelines), guarantees there will still be arrests, convictions, prison terms and destroyed lives (and black markets) for this so-called “legal weed.”

  • dr brown

    “It’s been a long time coming…”

    Now let’s go after cancer and all the ‘newer’ dis-eases and all those who support them, promote them, cause them…

    Follow the money.

    How ignorant/callous are so many…’Renard (smiles? ‘no way brother/sister, or, whatever you are)

  • [ Smiles ] I am of the opinion that if a person was prescribed marijuana as a medicine by their doctor, they should be fired if they were tested positive for marijuana usage!

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