Marijuana Legalization: More Americans Are Saying Yes

Marijuana legalization is gathering steam as one of the key topics for the 2020 presidential election. Marijuana is still a federally controlled substance.

Sirisha Bhogaraju - Author

Nov. 20 2020, Updated 5:33 p.m. ET


Marijuana legalization is gathering steam as one of the key topics for the 2020 presidential election. Marijuana, or cannabis, is still a controlled substance at the federal level. Most Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Andrew Yang, and Beto O’Rourke, support the idea of legalizing marijuana. Joe Biden has also been vocal about legalizing the use of medical cannabis and decriminalizing cannabis by passing the SAFE Justice Act.

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President Donald Trump hasn’t taken a clear stance on marijuana, but the growing interest in cannabis legalization might influence his decision. Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in ten states and Washington, D.C. Marijuana is also legal for medical use in 33 US states and Washington, D.C.

We know how some presidential candidates feel, but what do US voters think about marijuana?

Are Americans seeking marijuana legalization?

Several surveys clearly reflect that the majority of Americans support marijuana legalization. According to Marijuana Moment, a recent poll by Politico and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health indicated that people perceive other substances to be more harmful than marijuana. About 81%, 51%, and 47% of the survey respondents believed that tobacco cigarettes, alcohol, and e-cigarettes, respectively, were very harmful. In comparison, only 26% of the respondents thought that the use of marijuana was very harmful.

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The poll mentioned by Marijuana Moment classifies the respondents based on their political preferences. Among those Americans who are affiliated with the Democrats, 25% view marijuana as very harmful. A total of 26% of Republican supporters and 26% of independents view marijuana as very harmful. Overall, this survey reflects that people now believe alcohol and cigarettes are more dangerous than marijuana.

Last year, a survey by Pew Research indicated that the proportion of US adults supporting marijuana legalization had increased to 62% in 2018 from 31% in 2000. The study also reflected that 45% of Republican supporters favored legalization compared to 69% of Democrat supporters. The survey also observes the rise in support for cannabis legalization over the years among different generations. Among Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation, 74%, 63%, 54%, and 39% supported the legalization of cannabis in 2018.

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Why Americans support legal marijuana

The surveys mentioned above clearly establish that more Americans now support the legalization of marijuana. A survey by Gallup reflected upon the reasons why people want marijuana to be legalized. For 86% of respondents, the medical benefits of marijuana were a very important reason for seeking legalization. Also, 47% preferred legalization because they felt that government regulation of marijuana would make it safer for users.

Further, 70% of respondents favored legalization because they felt that it would allow law enforcement to focus on other crimes. Another 56% supported legalizing cannabis because it would generate tax revenue for state and local governments.

Among those who opposed legal marijuana, 79% gave the reason as the possibility of a higher number of car accidents involving drivers consuming the substance.

How cannabis companies stand to benefit

The increasing support for legal cannabis among US citizens and presidential candidates is working pretty well for cannabis companies. Already, Tilray (TLRY) and Canopy Growth (CGC) (WEED) are investing heavily in expanding their production capacities and product portfolios to address the growing demand for cannabis.

In August, Tilray received approval to import cannabis into the US for conducting two clinical trials associated with cannabidiol. To learn more about Tilray’s growth initiatives, read Why Did Tilray Stock Rise More than 10% Yesterday? In March, Canopy Growth acquired AgriNextUSA, a hemp company in the US. This deal is expected to accelerate the company’s growth in the US market. Canopy Growth is also building a Hemp Industrial Park in New York that would help it capitalize on the demand for hemp-based products in the US.

Americans’ growing interest in legal cannabis will likely cause many more states to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. This development would boost growth prospects for cannabis players.

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Cannabis companies need to tread carefully

Public opinion is prone to be adversely affected by any negative news related to the use of cannabis. For instance, the recently reported death in Illinois that was allegedly the result of vaping triggered an investigation by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Many health organizations and the CDC have been creating awareness about the alleged ill effects of e-cigarettes and vaping cannabis derivatives.

Investigative activity by regulatory authorities can also influence public opinion. Recently, the FDA sent warning letters to some companies for marketing unapproved drugs. CuraLeaf (CURLF) received an FDA warning for marketing unapproved CBD products with unproven claims for treating ailments such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Overall, the case for marijuana legalization—especially medical marijuana—looks strong. It could be one of the key aspects influencing American voters’ choice for the next president.


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