Nearly six out of ten American voters believe that the personal use of marijuana should no longer be a criminal offense, and 56 percent of Americans say that the substance ought to be legalized like alcohol, according to a nationwide Rasmussen telephone poll of 1,000 likely voters.
According to the poll, 58 percent of respondents believe that it should not be a crime "for someone to smoke marijuana" in private. Only 32 percent of respondents believed that such activity should remain illegal. Among self-identified Democrats, 63 percent agreed that the personal use of marijuana should not be a crime versus 49 percent of Republicans.
A solid majority of respondents, 56 percent, also said that they favored "legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol or cigarettes." (Thirty-four percent were opposed.) Among males polled, 61 percent favored legalization versus 52 percent of females. A majority of respondents of every age group polled favored legalizing cannabis, including 50 percent of those age 65 and older. However, among those respondents with children, only 49 percent said that they favored legalization.
Support for legalizing cannabis rose to 57 percent when pollsters' asked: Do you favor legalizing marijuana if "no one under 18 could buy it, it was banned in public, and there were strict penalties for driving under the influence." The slight gain in overall support was largely because of a spike in support among respondents with children (49 percent to 58 percent) and self-identified Republicans (48 percent to 52 percent).
The findings came as no surprise to NORML, an advocacy organization that favors legalization of marijuana.
"This poll illustrates, once again, that the public's growing frustration with marijuana prohibition and their desire for market based alternatives crosses conventional ideological and political boundaries," said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. "This poll illustrates, once again, that the public's growing frustration with marijuana prohibition and their desire for market based alternatives crosses conventional ideological and political boundaries."
He added: "By and large, voters of all ages and all ideological persuasions support regulating cannabis like alcohol, and they reject the failed policy of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating responsible adult marijuana consumers. Lawmakers at the state and federal level ought to recognize this sea change in public opinion and realize that marijuana law reform is no longer viewed by voters as a political liability, but rather as a political opportunity."
In 2011, a nationwide Gallup poll reported that 50 percent of Americans support legalizing the use of cannabis for adults. Forty-six percent of respondents said they opposed the idea. Most recently, an April 2012 Rasmussen Reports telephone survey reported that 47 percent of adults "believe the country should legalize and tax marijuana in order to help solve the nation's fiscal problems." Forty-two percent of respondents disagreed, while ten percent were undecided.