Support for legalizing marijuana is high among every group except over-65s, but even most over-65s think that it's more trouble than it's worth to enforce marijuana laws.
On January 1st, 2014 Colorado became the first state in the union where marijuana can be bought and sold in shops in much the same way as liquor. The state imposes heavy taxes on marijuana, limits purchases to over-21s and makes it a criminal offense to take marijuana outside of the state. Despite changes to state law, marijuana is still illegal according to federal law. The federal government has said, however, that it won't block marijuana legalization in Colorado, though this is conditional on successfully stopping marijuana being used by under-21s as well as making sure that marijuana does not cross state lines to states where it is still illegal.
The latest research from YouGov shows that support for legalizing marijuana is high, with 48% of the public believing that marijuana should be legalized, compared to 37% who want it to remain illegal. There's a significant generational divide, but only between those aged over 65 and under 65. Half of Americans under the age of 65 tend to support legalization of marijuana, while half of Americans over the age of 65 want it to remain illegal.
Even most over-65s (59%) tend to think, however, that it costs more for the government to try and enforce marijuana laws than it's worth. Only 24% of over-65s think that enforcing the laws are worthwhile, compared to roughly 16% of under-65s.
Asked about Colorado's law in particular there is a noticeable partisan divide. Democrats (70%) overwhelmingly support Colorado's tax-and-regulate approach, along with most Independents (56%). Republicans are generally against the law, with 51% opposing Colorado's law and 38% supporting it.
Supporters of prohibition of marijuana often argue that legalizing marijuana would increase crime and youth drug use, decrease road safety and lead people to try harder drugs - the 'gateway drug' theory. Americans have differing attitudes to each of these criticisms of legalization, however. Most (51%) say that legalization would have the negative effect of increasing marijuana use among young people, while Americans are evenly divided (37% to 37%) on whether or not legalization would make our roads more dangerous. People tend to reject the idea of marijuana as a gateway drug (48%), however, and also are more likely to think that legalizing marijuana would not increase crime rates (49%).
Colorado is not the only state to have legalized marijuana - Washington state has also passed laws that legalize use of marijuana in much the same way that Colorado has, though the state has been slower in rolling out the new system for regulating legal marijuana.
Full poll results can be found here.
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