Cannabis legalization is spreading like wildfire across the US, Canada and in many other countries around the world. The number of Americans who smoke marijuana has fallen from 50 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in 2011. The number of Americans who use medical marijuana has increased significantly in the past several years. For example, in Massachusetts, which legalized medical marijuana in 2002, medical marijuana use jumped to 28 percent of all adults in 2012 from 4 percent in 2005.
The decline in marijuana use among young Americans parallels a decline in the share of young adults who are non-white. In 1990, 49 percent of American 18- to 29-year-olds were non-Hispanic whites. By 2013, that share had dropped to 27 percent. The proportion of young Americans who are non-Hispanic whites is lower than it was in 1993, the first year with data on this question. The decline has happened among blacks and Latinos as well.
In addition, the percentage of Americans who favor legalizing the recreational use of marijuana has also increased in recent years. In 1990, 48 percent of Americans favored legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while only 35 percent said they opposed it. By 2013, 50 percent of Americans said they favored legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while 34 percent said they opposed it.
The survey shows that the older generations tend to be more supportive of legalizing marijuana and its consumption than young people are. The survey also shows that Republicans support legalizing marijuana more than Democrats. Sixty-five percent of Republican respondents supported legalizing marijuana, while only 46 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents said the same. Sixty-five percent of Republicans, 67 percent of independents, and 60 percent of Democrats said they support legalizing marijuana.
While these results aren’t too surprising, I wanted to take a closer look at what was driving these results. Why do young people seem to support legalizing marijuana more than older generations? Why is there such a large gender divide? And what is the racial divide?
Why Do Young People Favor Legalizing Marijuana More Than Older Generations?
The data suggests that attitudes about legalizing marijuana have changed considerably over the last ten years. Most younger Americans say that marijuana should be legal, including 49 percent of Millennials. A whopping 84 percent of young whites say that it should be legal. Young Democrats and Democrats aged 18 to 34 are about twice as likely as Republicans and Republicans aged 65 and older to favor legalization. Seventy-five percent of Millennials favor legalization, compared to only 46 percent of Republicans. A majority of Americans of all ages have become more accepting of legalizing marijuana over the past ten years, although the changes have been more pronounced among the younger population. In the early 2000s, there was almost unanimous opposition to legalization among seniors (who comprise the oldest cohort in the survey) but not millennials. More recently, as support for legalization has become a common and accepted position among young Americans, the older cohort has become less likely to oppose the move toward legalization. For further information, read this blog.