Support for the legalization of marijuana among young Americans is not as high as many perceive. According to a poll by the Harvard Public Opinion Project released Tuesday morning, 44 percent of 18-to-29-year olds support the legalization of marijuana, while 34 percent oppose it and 22 percent remain unsure. This recent data deviates greatly from a recent Pew poll released March 7, which reports 69 percent of young Americans support legalizing marijuana.
There is a significant racial divide in support for legalizing marijuana. Whites are the most likely to support marijuana legalization, with 49 percent supporting legalization, as compared to 38 percent of blacks and 37 of percent Hispanics.
Despite racial differences in support of legalization, the percentage of each racial group that reported having smoked marijuana in the last few months was nearly equal-approximately 10 percent for each group. Of those polled who said they have not used marijuana in the last few months, 12 percent said that they would definitely or probably use marijuana if it were legalized for recreational use.
Although the number of millennials who reported smoking recently is low, most young Americans do not stigmatize using marijuana. Sixty-five percent of 18-to-29-year olds said that their perception of a friend would not change if they learned that friend used marijuana. Thirty percent said that their perception of a friend would change negatively, compared to only five percent who said it would change positively.
Most young Americans are more sympathetic toward the case for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, with sixty-six percent of 18-to-29-year olds supporting it. Seventy-two percent of young Americans living in the Northeast are likely to support the legalization of medical marijuana-more than in any other region. Surprisingly, this support is 14 points lower in the West, the region in which most states have legalized medical marijuana and, for Colorado and Washington, legalized recreational marijuana as well.
Fewer young Americans care about the issue of marijuana than is commonly thought; in fact, putting marijuana legislation on the ballot may not drive young Americans to the polls. The plurality of young Americans-43 percent-said that marijuana legislation on a ballot would not change their likelihood of voting. Twenty-three percent of 18-to-29-year olds reported that they would be more likely to vote in an election where the legalization of marijuana also appeared on the ballot. Those who said they are more likely to vote vote support marijuana overwhelmingly-75 percent support legalization compared to only 25 percent who oppose it.
Marijuana legislation is expected to appear on the ballots of many states in the next few years, but young Americans may not be enthusiastic enough about the issue to give it the spark it needs to light up.
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