Well over half of Americans -- 58 percent -- now say that marijuana use for any reason should be legal, according to Gallup poll released Wednesday. With the push for legalization rapidly gaining traction, that figure is tied for the highest-ever level of support.
Support for legal marijuana use in the U.S. has steadily grown over time. When Gallup first asked the question in 1969, just 12 percent of people thought marijuana use should be legal. By the late '70s, support had grown to about one in four Americans, by the new millennium, it was 30 percent and by 2009, the figure hit 40 percent. In 2013, a record 58 percent of Americans supported legalization, a figure that was matched with the new poll Wednesday.
A legalization advocacy group, the Marijuana Policy Project, called the poll just another indicator in a continuing shift in perception among Americans. “It’s pretty clear which direction our nation is heading on this issue," said Mason Tvert, director of communications, in a statement. "The status quo has shifted. Marijuana prohibition has been a public policy disaster, and most Americans are ready to put it behind us and move on."
The Gallup poll found that just 40 percent of Americans are now against legalizing marijuana. In October 2014, 51 percent supported legalization while 47 percent were against it.
Other 2015 polls have shown similar support for legalization, the Pew Research Center, for instance, finding that 53 percent of the United States population thinks the drug should be made legal.
Four states -- Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska -- and Washington, D.C., have approved recreational use of marijuana by referendum. But divisions remain between generations. Seventy percent of the so-called millennials, age 18 to 34, support legalization, while just 35 percent of senior citizens are in favor of legal recreational marijuana, the Gallup poll found.
The survey was based on phone interviews conducted Oct. 7 through Oct. 11 with a random sample of 1,015 adults aged 18 and older. The margin of error for the poll is four percentage points.