NEW YORK (TIP): For the first time in more than four decades of surveys in the United States on marijuana use, a majority of Americans have lent support to legalizing the drug that has been a traditional intoxicant in India. In a finding that reveals a decisive shift in attitudes towards the recreational use of marijuana (or cannabis) in the US, the latest Pew Research Center survey showed support for legalizing the drug at 52%, an increase of 11 percentage points since the 2010 Pew poll. In the poll conducted on March 13-17, 45% Americans said the drug should not be made legal.
Opinion on the issue has undergone a sea change in the US since the first poll was conducted in 1969 by Gallup, where just 12% of Americans favoured legalization of marijuana use, while 84% were opposed to it. Pew, a respected polling agency in the US, found increased support for legalizing the organic drug across racial and age profiles. Young people were the most supportive, with 65% of those born since 1980 – called Millennials – favouring legalization, up from 36% in 2008. Surprisingly, the survey also found increased support for legalization among older Americans whose opinions were seen to be set. Half of US Baby Boomers (those born from 1946 to 64) supported making the drug legal. Even those born before 1946 (the Silent Generation) were more supportive of legalization than before – the percentage having nearly doubled, from 17 to 32, since 2002. The use, sale and possession of cannabis is illegal under US federal law, although some states have created exemptions to allow medical use of the drug. In November 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington made history by approving measures making the sale and possession of marijuana legal for both medical and non-medical use.