Half of Americans support legalising marijuana – poll

2011-10-18 08:13

Washington – An unprecedented 50% of Americans think it’s high time that marijuana should become legal in the US, according to a Gallup poll.

That’s up from 46% a year ago – and way up from a mere 12% in 1969, when Gallup first asked the question and 84% of respondents opposed to legalisation.

“If this current trend on legalising marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation’s laws into compliance with the people’s wishes,” the pollsters said in a statement.

Support for legalisation was strongest among liberals (69%), those aged 18 to 29 (62%), and those living in the western US (55%). Least likely to support legalisation were those over 65 (31%), conservatives (34%) and southerners (44%).

Gallup based its findings on telephone interviews on October 6-9 with adults in all 50 states. Samples were weighted by gender, age, race, education and region, with a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

On its website, the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said: “Marijuana legalisation is becoming more popular with just about everyone.”

But it said more political pressure is needed before change can come about. Last June, several US members of Congress introduced legislation in Washington to legalise marijuana nationwide but allow each state to regulate, tax and control the drug itself.

It was the first-ever effort to legalise the production and consumption of marijuana at a national level, although its sponsors acknowledged that it had little chance of becoming law.

“We believe the federal government shouldn’t be involved with prosecuting adults smoking marijuana,” said Democratic Congressman Barney Frank at the time. We don’t have enough prosecutors or police officers to do so.”

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalised the production and consumption of marijuana for medical purposes, while 14 states have decriminalised small amounts for consumption.

“I don’t expect to pass it in this Congress,” Frank said. “But I think we’re making progress. This is an educational process.”

Some 850 000 Americans were arrested in 2009 for marijuana-related offences, according to FBI figures. Nine out of 10 of those cases were for possession.

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