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A majority of Americans now support legal marijuana

In recent years, support for marijuana legalization reached a tipping point, and a majority of Americans now favor legalization.

According to surveys from Gallup, support for legalization rose from 12 percent in 1969 to 31 percent in 2000 to 64 percent in 2017. A Civic Science poll and the General Social Survey found similar levels of support in recent years.

The Pew Research Center found that support varies from generation to generation, although it has been rising among all age groups over the past few years. As it stands, more than two-thirds of millennials back legalizing marijuana, while support is lower among older groups.

Pew Research Center chart on support for marijuana legalization

The change in public opinion is part of a broader pushback against punitive criminal justice policies and the war on drugs in general. A 2014 Pew survey found 63 percent of Americans agree that states should move away from harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, and 67 percent said drug policy should focus more on providing treatment over prosecuting drug users.

The wider shift on all punitive drug policies demonstrates that it’s not just that more Americans want the freedom to use marijuana — a substance that more than six in 10, according to Pew, acknowledge is safer for a person’s health and society than alcohol. Instead, Americans are broadly fed up with drug and criminal justice policies that have contributed to higher incarceration rates while doing little to solve ongoing drug crises.

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