On March 4, 2015, the General Social Study published its latest report examining the public's opinion on marijuana legalization. The study documents both the shift in popular consensus on marijuana over the past 40 years as well as the monumental growth that has occurred in the last decade. This is the first time that a comprehensive study has found over 50 percent of respondents in favor of marijuana legalization.
According to the study, 52 percent of respondents favor legalizing marijuana. That's 36 percentage points higher than in 1990 when support for legalization was at 16 percent. Even in the last ten years alone, public approval has jumped almost 20 points. This dramatic difference can help explain the recent trend of states passing laws to legalize pot for recreational use.
This movement, started by Colorado and Washington state in 2012, has expanded to include Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. This positive trend has been monitored and commented on extensively by both media and polls. An IVN article by Glen Luke Flanagan reports that support for marijuana legalization will likely grow even more in 2015.
The article cites the Marijuana Policy Project, which pegged California as the state most likely to fully legalize marijuana in 2016. As the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana in 1996, it isn't improbable to look to the notoriously progressive state as "next in line" to legalize marijuana.
Other states predicted to join Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. include Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and Arizona.
Other leading polling agencies like Quinnipiac and Pew have reported a similar trend. A 2013 article by Jane Susskind also documents the rising support for marijuana legalization. Likewise, a 2014 article by Joshua Alvarez reports on the status of various state initiatives.
A major influential factor could be generational: younger voters are more open to legalization than older generations. Independents' approval of legalization is also significant and is most likely another reason for the growth in support.
With the impressive jump in public support just in the last decade, it will be interesting to watch upcoming developments in the legalization of marijuana on both the state and national levels.