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Support for marijuana legalization reaches a record high -- and even a majority of Republicans back it

  • 64% Americans support marijuana legalization
  • It’s a record high since the question was first polled in 1969
  • A majority of Republicans support legalization for the first time

Support for legalizing marijuana just reached a record high, with the vast majority of Americans favouring legalizing the drug, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday.

64% of Americans support legalizing marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use, the highest support since Gallup first asked the question in 1969. To put that in perspective, only 12% of Americans supported legalization that year.

The poll also marks another milestone: It’s the first time the majority of Republicans support marijuana legalization, with 51% indicating that they’d like to see the end of federal prohibition. When the question was polled last year, only 43% of Republicans indicated they were in favour of legalization.

As for Democrats, 72% support legalization, up from 67% when Gallup polled the question last year, and 67% of independents support legalization as well.

However, support for legalization among independents actually fell by three percentage points since last year, when 70% indicated they were in favour of legalization.

Legal marijuana now has equal support to gay marriage among Americans, Gallup notes.

“The trajectory of Americans’ views on marijuana is similar to that of their views on same-sex marriage over the past couple of decades. On both issues, about a quarter supported legalization in the late 1990s, and today 64% favour each,” Gallup writes in its analysis of the poll.

Gay marriage had vast public support before any action was taken on the federal level. The Supreme Court ruled to legalise gay marriage nationwide in 2014.

Activists from within the marijuana-legalization community celebrated the poll results.

“Marijuana legalization is far more popular than Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump and will survive them both,” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement.

“Instead of wasting limited law enforcement resources trying to stop successful state-level legalization initiatives, US officials should listen to the clear, bipartisan message the public is sending them, and support federal marijuana reform as well.”

Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, a cannabis advocacy group, told Business Insider in a statement that it would be “politically disastrous,” for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to initiate a crackdown on state-legal marijuana businesses.

Sen. Cory Booker, the New Jersey Democrat, introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in August to end federal marijuana prohibition.

Sessions, an outspoken opponent of legal marijuana, said during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that he thinks there should be “healthy competition,” among growers of medicinal-grade marijuana for research, though he has hinted at cracking down on state-legal marijuana enterprises.

Marijuana, both medicinal and recreational, is considered an illegal Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. 29 states, however, have legalised some form of medical marijuana and allow doctors to prescribe the drug to patients.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions could find himself out of step with his own party if the current trends continue,” Gallup noted.

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