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Poll Finds 70 Percent of Americans Back Legal Recreational Marijuana Use

The poll’s publication comes one day after voters in Ohio passed a referendum legalizing recreational use in the state.

A flowering cannabis plant is seen at the Illicit Gardens production facility in Independence, Missouri, on March 18, 2023.

Seven in ten Americans are supportive of easing restrictions on cannabis, new polling data finds, favoring making the drug legal for recreational use across the entirety of the country.

The Gallup poll released on Wednesday found that 70 percent of U.S. adults are supportive of legalizing marijuana use, while only 29 percent believe cannabis should remain illegal. One percent of respondents said they were unsure of their opinion.

While the rate of support for marijuana legalization is the highest in the poll’s history, it is consistent with the rate that has been seen recently — in the past three years of Gallup asking the question, no fewer than 68 percent of respondents said that marijuana use should be legalized across the country. The last time that support for legalization polled below 60 percent was in 2015, and the last time that it polled below 50 percent was more than a decade ago.

Support for the legalization of recreational cannabis is likely strong due to the fact that most Americans readily admit that they’ve tried the drug. In a Gallup poll published in August, for instance, 50 percent said they’ve tried marijuana, consistent with what other polls have found on the same question.

The more recent Gallup polling also found that there is broad support across ideological lines for legalization. While 87 percent of Democrats favor legalization and 70 percent of independents do, most Republicans, who have traditionally been more likely to oppose legalization efforts, also support making recreational marijuana legal in the U.S., with 55 percent saying they’re in favor of the idea.

The poll also found that nearly 8 in 10 people (79 percent) ages 18-34 backed legalizing recreational cannabis use in the U.S.

“The high level of support among younger adults [to legalize recreational marijuana] suggests national backing will only expand in the years ahead, likely resulting in more states, and perhaps the federal government, moving to legalize it,” Lydia Saad, director of U.S. Social Research for Gallup, said in the report.

The poll was published the day after voters in Ohio passed a binding referendum in the state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. That measure passed by a wide margin, with 57 percent supporting the new rules and just 43 percent opposed. The Buckeye State becomes the 24th state in the country (in addition to Washington D.C.) that allows the recreational use of cannabis within their jurisdictions, despite a federal ban on marijuana that remains in place.

Under the new provisions that passed, starting next month residents in Ohio over the age of 21 can buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, and can grow plants at home. The new provision, however, will not lead to the expungement of past marijuana convictions.

The criminalization of marijuana has played a significant role in the mass incarceration of Americans, particularly people of color. Tens of thousands of individuals are imprisoned in the U.S. because of marijuana offenses. Although usage rates between white and Black users of marijuana are similar, a Black person who uses cannabis is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for using the drug than a white person is.

“Marijuana is no longer a controversial issue,” said Tom Haren of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, speaking to Marijuana Moment about the successful referendum outcome. “Ohioans demonstrated this by passing State Issue 2 in a landslide. Ohioans are being extremely clear on the future they want for our state: adult-use marijuana legal and regulated.”

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