Legalizing marijuana is more popular than implementing a national $15 minimum wage, rejoining the Paris climate agreement or establishing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, according to a new poll of U.S. adults.
Sixty-one percent of the survey’s respondents said they thought recreational cannabis legalization is a good idea, while 39 percent said it’s a bad one. The next most popular of the national policy proposals included in the poll was rejoining the Paris climate accord, which came in at 57 percent in favor.
Legal marijuana also ranked ahead of President Joe Biden’s job performance (49 percent approval) and the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump (49 percent say it is a good idea).
Across the political spectrum, marijuana legalization was especially popular among those who identified as Democrats, with 74 percent in favor. Sixty percent of independents, meanwhile, supported the policy change, while only 46 percent of Republicans said legalization is a good idea.
People who voted for Trump in the 2020 election were more skeptical of legalization than Republicans as a whole, with only 43 percent in favor of the policy. Of Biden voters, 76 percent said they support legalization.
In general, support for legalization fell with age. Legalization had majority support across age groups surveyed, with the exception of those 65 and older. Just 38 percent of respondents in that upper age group said legalization is a good idea, compared to 79 percent of people 18–29, 67 percent of those 30–44 and 57 percent of those 46–64.
Behind the legalization of recreational marijuana, rejoining the #parisclimateagreement ranked as the next most popular policy, with 57% stating it would be a good idea, compared to 43% who said it is a bad idea. #7News pic.twitter.com/bxNVbEMtjb
— 7News Boston WHDH (@7News) February 5, 2021
Regionally, respondents in the West were most likely to support legalization (64 percent), followed by those in the Midwest (62 percent), the Northeast (61 percent) and the South (58 percent). People living in urban areas were most in favor of legalization (66 percent), followed by those in suburban (60 percent) and rural (54 percent) areas.
Majorities of all the survey’s racial and ethnic groups said legalization is a good idea, including 67 percent of Asian American or Pacific Islanders, 64 percent of African American or Black respondents, 61 percent of white respondents, 60 percent of those of other or multiple races and 56 percent of Hispanic or Latino voters.
The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, with higher margins of error among breakdowns by subsets of party affiliation, age and other characteristics.
The survey’s overall findings track with a those of Gallup poll published in November, in which 68 percent of Americans said they support legalizing marijuana—the highest level ever since Gallup started asking about cannabis more than 50 years ago.
Like the new Emerson survey, last year’s Gallup poll found minority support for legalization among Republicans. That was a shift from Gallup’s polling a year earlier, which found 51 percent of GOP voters on board with legalization—one of the first times a majority of Republicans supported the change.
The new Emerson poll comes as Democrats, now with a slim hold on the Senate, prepare to introduce legislation to end cannabis prohibition nationwide. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other top Senate Democrats met with stakeholders last week, the first formal step toward crafting the bill. The House of Representatives passed a federal rescheduling bill last year, but the measure died in the GOP-led Senate.
While specifics of the forthcoming legislation are still unclear, Schumer and other lawmakers have said they are in the process of merging various pieces of legislation. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), said in a recent interview that his goal with the bill will be to “end the prohibition and come up with sensible tax and regulatory oversight at the federal level.”
Schumer also pressed Biden’s attorney general and other Justice Department nominees at a meeting last week to respect the rights of states that legalize marijuana.
Although President Biden does not support full legalization and backs only modest cannabis reforms, advocates remain hopeful that he would not veto any broad marijuana legislation that congressional leaders manage to pass.
Already in 2021, several congressional marijuana bills have already been filed: one to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, another to prevent the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from denying veterans benefits solely because they use medical marijuana in compliance with state law and one to allow hemp-derived CBD to be marketed and sold as a dietary supplement.