FACT CHECK: Has Support For Legal Marijuana Doubled Since 2000?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

The American Prospect tweeted Monday that support for legalized marijuana has doubled in the last two decades.

“Since 2000, the number of Americans supporting legalization has doubled from around 30 percent to well over 60 percent,” reads the tweet.

Verdict: True

Polls consistently show that six in 10 Americans support marijuana legalization, up from about 30 percent in 2000.

Fact Check:

The tweet linked to an article by The Prospect that declared the federal ban on marijuana to be on “borrowed time.”

The magazine cited high-profile examples of politicians who now support legalization, including former GOP House Speaker John Boehner, who recently joined the board of a marijuana company, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who just announced legislation that would decriminalize the drug.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine for a first time possession offense.

The Prospect argues that public opinion has led many politicians on the left to come out in favor of decriminalization. “As politicians usually do, Democrats are chasing public opinion,” reads the article.

Only 16 percent of Americans supported legal marijuana use in 1990, according to Pew Research. Support rose to 31 percent in 2000, and now 61 percent of Americans believe the use of marijuana should be made legal.

Gallup has similarly found that support for legalization has doubled to 64 percent since 2000.

Younger Americans, Democrats and independents are more likely to favor legalization. “As in the past, there are wide generational and partisan differences in views of marijuana legalization,” says Pew Research.

Seventy percent of Millenials told Pew they supported legalization, while only 56 percent of Baby Boomers expressed support.

Likewise, 69 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents believe in legal marijuana use, while only 43 percent of Republicans feel the same way.

Quinnipiac found that support among all Americans rises to 91 percent for medicinal use. And 79 percent of the public views alcohol consumption as more or equally harmful to one’s health as marijuana, according to CBS News.

The same poll showed that half of all Americans have tried marijuana.

California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in 1996; over the years, another 28 states followed suit, and today, nine states have legalized recreational use as well.

The Obama administration issued guidance in 2013 that essentially spared these states from federal interference, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has taken a hard stance on marijuana use, reversed those guidelines in January.

Sessions told an audience in March that the Department of Justice will continue to focus on violations by drug cartels and major distribution networks rather than prosecute small-time cases.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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