About six-in-ten Americans (61%) say the use of marijuana should be legalized, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The survey, conducted in October, finds that the share of U.S. adults who support marijuana legalization is little changed from about a year ago – when 57% favored it – but it is nearly double what it was in 2000 (31%).
As in the past, there are wide generational and partisan differences in views of marijuana legalization. Majorities of Millennials (70%), Gen-Xers (66%) and Baby Boomers (56%) say the use of marijuana should be legal. Only among the Silent Generation does a greater share oppose (58%) than favor (35%) marijuana legalization.
Nearly seven-in-ten Democrats say marijuana use should be legal, as do 65% of independents. By contrast, just 43% of Republicans favor marijuana legalization, while 55% are opposed.
While both parties are divided along age lines in views of marijuana legalization, the differences are especially stark among Republicans.
Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, those younger than 40 favor legalizing marijuana use, 62% to 38%. Republicans ages 40 to 64 are divided (48% say it should be legal, 49% illegal), while those 65 and older oppose marijuana legalization by more than two-to-one (67% to 30%).
Sizable majorities of Democrats and Democratic leaners younger than 40 (79%) and 40 to 64 (70%) favor marijuana legalization. Older Democrats – those 65 and older – are more divided (50% favor legalization, 42% oppose it).
The growing public support for legal marijuana comes as more states have legalized the drug for recreational purposes. This week, stores in California began selling recreational marijuana after voters legalized the practice in a November 2016 ballot measure. Seven other states and the District of Columbia have also legalized the drug for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, 29 states – plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico – have legalized the drug for medical purposes.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week announced that the Justice Department may step up enforcement in jurisdictions that have legalized the drug.