- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sixty-four percent of Americans including 51 percent of Republicans favor legalizing marijuana, according to the results of a Gallup poll released Wednesday — the highest level of public support from either demographic ever recorded.

A round of polling conducted earlier this month among 1,028 randomly selected Americans suggest support for legalization is up nearly across the board, Gallup said.

Gallup pollsters have been surveying Americans about marijuana legalization since 1969, periodically asking respondents: “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?”

While only 12 percent of respondents answered affirmatively during the first year of polling, that statistics increased over the decades to 25 percent in 1970, 34 percent in 2001 and 60 percent in 2016 — a record shattered by the 64 percent of respondents who replied “yes” to the latest round of questioning, Gallup said Wednesday.

The newest results also mark the first time that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans acknowledged supporting legalization, according to pollsters.

Democrats have historically supported legalizing marijuana and became the first partisan group to see majority support for the matter in 2009, Gallup said. For the first time ever, however, a majority of Republicans — 51 percent — told pollsters they approve legalization, Gallup said.

Seventy-two percent of Democrats told pollsters this month they support legalizing marijuana, up from 67 percent in 2016, according to the results published Wednesday. Sixty-seven percent of Independents, meanwhile, said they support legalizing marijuana, down from 70 percent last year, Gallup said.

“It makes sense that support for ending marijuana prohibition is increasing,” said Morgan Fox, the director of communications for Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest organization devoted to reforming cannabis laws. “Americans are tired of wasting resources arresting hundreds of thousands of individuals every year for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.

“As public support for ending marijuana prohibition continues to grow, it is crucial that states continue to be given the freedom to serve as laboratories of democracy,” Mr. Fox said. We urge the Department of Justice in particular to continue its policy of not interfering in states with well-regulated adult-use and medical marijuana programs while lawmakers catch up to the will of the people.”

California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, paving the way for 28 other states and the nation’s capital to follow suit.

Coloradans voted in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana, meanwhile, opening the door for the country’s first state-licensed retail pot shops to open in January 2014. Recreational marijuana has since been legalized in a total of eight states and D.C., including five where adults can purchase marijuana from government-regulated retail dispensaries: Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada and Washington state.

The federal government considers marijuana a Schedule 1 substance with no known medical benefits, but the Trump administration has refrained so far from interfering in states with medical and recreational marijuana laws in place.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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