Data Journalist

68% say that a country should free those previously incarcerated over marijuana possession if it legalized the drug

On October 17th, Canada became the second country and the first major world economy to federally legalize recreational marijuana. Global powers around the world will be following the impact of the decision closely and just south of their attention, there’s growing optimism among Americans that the move will have positive effect on Canada.

When Canada initially passed the landmark legislation in June, YouGov Omnibus surveyed Americans and found that 38%, the plurality, believed that it will have an overall positive effect on Canada. YouGov surveyed Americans again with a similar question in October, when it became officially legal in Canada to consume recreational marijuana, and American optimism has soared. At present, 51% of Americans believe that legalizing marijuana will have a positive effect on Canada.



Public support for marijuana legalization varies depending on what it would be used for. A vast majority (78%) say that medical marijuana should be legal and an additional 8% say medical marijuana should be decriminalized. Just 5% of Americans say medical marijuana should be illegal.



Nearly one in two (48%) Americans say recreational marijuana should be legal as well. Notably, men (52%) were more likely than women (44%) to support marijuana for recreational use. An additional 19% of the public believe that recreational use should be decriminalized but 22% hold that it should remain illegal.

In many Canadian provinces, the legal age to buy or consume marijuana is 19 years-of-age. When Americans were posed with the question of what the legal age of consumption should be, close to a quarter (24%) say that it should be set at 18 years-of-age. A plurality (44%) say that the legal age should be the same as that of alcohol – 21 years-old.

While public perception of marijuana may be positive in America, the US government is still navigating how to deal with Canada’s new legislation especially when it comes to Canadians entering America. According to one report, there’s been an uptick in the number of Canadians being denied entry for admitting to previous cannabis use.


It is certainly a tricky situation; while many states along the US-Canada border have legalized marijuana, ports of entry fall under federal jurisdiction where it is still considered a Schedule I drug. Americans seem to disagree with that logic. Over half (64%) believe that a foreigner who has admitted to consuming marijuana in the past should be allowed into the US.

That certainly won’t be the first legal dilemma any nation considering legalizing marijuana will face. Canada, as an example, remains unsure of how to treat marijuana consumption among law enforcement officials. When posed with that question, over half (53%) of Americans agreed that if a country legalizes it, law enforcement officials should be able to consume marijuana.

Americans are also in favor of exonerating those previously incarcerated over marijuana possession, with 68% of Americans voicing agreement regarding the statement. And six in ten (60%) hold that employers should not be allowed to drug test for marijuana if it becomes legal.



Read more results from this poll here

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