For the first time ever, a majority of Republicans support legalizing weed: 51 percent, a startling nine-point leap since just last year, according to Gallup. Overall support for legalized marijuana has hit 64 percent, an all-time high. This represents, along with tolerance for interracial and gay relationships, one of the great reversals of public sentiment in generations.
“The trajectory of Americans' views on marijuana is similar to that of their views on same-sex marriage over the past couple of decades,” Gallup said in its analysis of the data. “On both issues, about a quarter supported legalization in the late 1990s, and today 64% favor each.”
Nationwide support for legalization first hit 50 percent in 2011, just ahead of historic votes in Colorado and Washington state to legalize recreational use of the drug in 2012. Since then, voters in six more states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational marijuana laws.
More than 20 percent of the U.S. population now lives in a state where marijuana use is fully legal, and even strong opponents of legalization concede that norms around marijuana use are shifting.
“The national discussion surrounding marijuana enforcement efforts continues to evolve,” the federal Drug Enforcement Administration wrote in its just-released 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. Despite the drug's widespread availability even in states where it hasn't been legalized, marijuana remains at the bottom of law enforcement agencies' drug priorities.
Meanwhile, many of opponents' fears about marijuana legalization don't appear to be panning out. States that have legalized pot are also beginning to reap some of the benefits of the policy change, including job growth, tax revenue and even some evidence of slowing in the opiate epidemic.