Just in time for 4/20, the yearly day when marijuana enthusiasts flaunt their love for their favorite green plant, a poll released Wednesday shows that a record number of Americans think legalizing pot is a good idea.
Fifty-six percent of Americans now say the U.S. should legalize weed, according to a survey conducted on behalf of CBS News. That support is a new high (pardon the expression) in an increasingly accepting landscape and just a slight increase from the level of support one year ago. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who oppose legalization dropped seven points from a year ago, and rests at 36 percent.
The U.S. has come a long way from the days when presidential hopefuls were forced to claim that, while having tried marijuana in their youth, they certainly hadn’t inhaled the stuff. At that time, support for legalization hovered in the low 20 percent range. Just 24 years later, a presidential candidate has openly mocked the idea of not inhaling as support for legalization rose sharply in the country.
Recreational marijuana is already legal in Washington state, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia (it remains a federal crime). Twenty-three states offer access to medical marijuana for ailments such as chronic pain or nausea related to cancer or AIDS treatment. Several states could soon join the Western states that will have no problem letting their residents toke up Wednesday. There are eight states where legal weed for any purpose could become the reality in the next year or so: Massachusetts, Nevada, California, New York, Vermont, Minnesota, Connecticut and Maryland.
Aside from public support for legalization, there are economic incentives to do so. In Colorado alone, the marijuana industry grew to $700 million in sales in just the first year, including $368 million in medical pot sales and $313 million in recreational sales. That pumped $63 million into the state’s tax coffers.