For the first time since attitudes began to be tracked, a majority of people in the United States say they now support making the use of marijuana legal, according to a new study.
Support for legalizing marijuana jumped higher for Latinos – 16 percent – since 2010 than it did in the general population, which saw a rise of 11 percent, according to the study, published by Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research group.
More than half of Latinos – 51 percent – say that the use of marijuana should be made legal, slightly less than the 52 percent in the general population who said the same. But Hispanics were less likely – 34 percent – to say they have tried marijuana than blacks or whites, half of whom reported having tried it.
“People who say they have used marijuana in the past year did so both for medical reasons and ‘just for fun,’” the study's authors wrote.
More than half, or 56 percent, of people between 18 and 29 years old said they have tried the drug. Men are more likely than women – 54 percent to 42 percent -- to say they have tried the drug.
A key for the increased support is that the perception of marijuana as leading to harder, more dangerous drugs has changed, the study said. In 1977, for example, 60 percent said that marijuana was a first step to harder drugs. But now, the percentage has plunged to 38 percent.
“Much of this shift is the result of generational change,” the Pew study concluded. “Notably, boomers view this issue in about the same way as they did in 1977, when there was relatively broad support among this age cohort for legalization.”
Also, the study noted, more people than ever – 77 percent to 16 percent -- see marijuana as having legitimate medical value.
Does political party affiliation color the view of marijuana as medically useful? Only modestly between the two major parties, the study found.
At 82 percent, independents had the highest percentage of respondents who think marijuana has a legitimate medical function. Democrats followed with 76 percent and Republicans with 72 percent.
Respondents who see marijuana use as “morally wrong” dropped significantly since 2006.
Roughly 32 percent said that smoking marijuana is a moral calamity, an 18-percent drop since 2006.
A vast majority, or 72 percent, of people who responded said that the government’s enforcement of laws pertaining to marijuana “cost more than they are worth.”
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente