U.S.: Support for Marijuana Legalization, by year
YearShare of population,
in %
  • Region: United States
  • Time period: 1969 to 2023
  • Published: Nov 2023

Data Analysis and Insights

Updated: Apr 15, 2024 | Published by: Statistico | About Us / Data / Analysis

Overall Growth in Support for Marijuana Legalization Over Time

Support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. has shown a significant upward trend, increasing from 12% in 1969 to 70% in 2023. This gradual but steady increase reflects a shifting public opinion over more than five decades.

Stabilization of Support in Recent Years

After a period of rapid increases, support for legalization appears to have stabilized somewhat in the recent past, remaining at 68% from 2020 to 2021 and then increasing slightly to 70% by 2023. This pattern suggests a possible plateauing after years of growth.

Significant Decadal Increases

Every decade since 1969 has witnessed notable rises in support for legalization. For instance, support was at 12% in 1969 and saw an increase to 25% by 1995, indicating a doubling over approximately 26 years. The trend continued with support reaching 44% by 2010 and 70% by 2023.

Major Jumps in Public Opinion

There were two significant jumps in support for marijuana legalization: a 12-point increase from 58% in 2013 to 70% in 2023, and an earlier 8-point increase from 36% in 2005 to 44% in 2010. These leaps likely indicate periods of changing societal attitudes and possible impacts of policy debates and legislative changes.

Historical Low and High Points

The lowest recorded support was in 1969 at 12%, at a time when marijuana was widely illegal and public sentiment against its use was strong. The highest point reached so far has been 70% in 2023, showcasing a major shift in public perception over the years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the overall trend in support for marijuana legalization in the U.S.?

The support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. has increased from 12% in 1969 to 70% in 2023.

What has been the historical low and high points of support for marijuana legalization?

The lowest recorded support was 12% in 1969, while the highest has been 70% in 2023.

Has support for marijuana legalization in the U.S. plateaued recently?

Yes, it appears to have stabilized, remaining at 68% from 2020 to 2021 before slightly increasing to 70% by 2023.

Terms and Definitions

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, refers to a group of three plants with psychoactive properties, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. The plant's dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds are commonly used recreationally for their effects on the mind and body, usually causing a "high." It is also used for medicinal purposes, including pain control.

Legalization is the process of removing legal prohibitions against something, making it legal and permissible under law. In the context of marijuana, it refers to state or federal laws being updated or removed to allow for the legal sale, possession, use, and distribution of marijuana.

Medical marijuana refers to the use of the marijuana plant or its chemicals for the treatment of diseases or conditions. It's the same product as recreational marijuana, but it's taken for medical purposes. It can be prescribed by doctors in states where it's legal and can come in various forms like pills, oils, or edible products.

Recreational marijuana refers to the use of marijuana purely for personal enjoyment rather than for health or medical reasons. More simply, it is marijuana used to induce the "high" sensation, for pleasure, or other forms of entertainment.

Decriminalization is the lessening of criminal penalties despite the act remain illegal. In terms of marijuana decriminalization, it means reducing or removing the penalties for possessing and using marijuana, although selling and distributing it remains illegal.

In the U.S., laws can be enacted by both the federal (national) government and state governments. Federal law applies throughout the country and trumps state law when there's a conflict. State law varies from state to state. In the context of marijuana, while it remains illegal under federal law, many states have passed legislation legalizing its use in various forms.

A psychoactive substance is a chemical that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior. Marijuana is considered a psychoactive substance because of its constituent compound, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has mind-altering effects.
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