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By Mark Reynolds November 8, 2015

Clearing the air over marijuana support

Gallup pollsters took the nation’s pulse on marijuana legalization in October and the findings led supporters of legal pot use to declare victory.

"It’s pretty clear which direction our nation is heading on this issue," Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release. "The status quo has shifted. Marijuana prohibition has been a public policy disaster, and most Americans are ready to put it behind us and move on."

We started our fact checking with Gallup’s recent report to see if it really does show that a majority of Americans support legalization. Just the title of the report — "In U.S., 58 percent back legal marijuana use" — gave us a pretty clear sign that it does.

Just the title of the report — "In U.S., 58 percent back legal marijuana use" — gave us a pretty clear sign that it does.

"Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has measured to date, at 58 percent," the report concludes.

"Younger generations of Americans," Gallup says, "have been increasingly likely to favor legal use of marijuana as they entered adulthood compared with older generations of Americans when they were the same age decades ago. Now more than seven in 10 of today’s young adults support legalization."

The 58 percent figure represents the percentage of 1,015 people who answered "Yes," when they were asked, "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?"

The percent of Americans who support legalization first hit 58 percent in 2013, dipped to 51 percent in 2014 and rebounded back to 58 percent in 2015, according to Gallup.

"Over the past six years, support has vacillated a bit, but averaged 48 percent from 2010 through 2012 and has averaged above majority level, 56 percent, since 2013," says the report.

The poll was conducted Oct. 7 to Oct. 11, just before leading Democrats faced off in a presidential nomination debate televised by CNN on Oct. 13. During that exchange, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders expressed their views on marijuana legalization.

Clinton laughed, at the debate, when she was reminded that about a year ago she had told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that she didn’t smoke marijuana when she was young and has no intention of starting now.

Clinton said "No" when she was asked if she is ready "to take a position" on legalization.

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But she said she’s interested in learning more about legalization from states that have approved recreational marijuana use.

For his part, Sanders said he would vote for a local Nevada measure that would legalize recreational pot use. He has proposed removing marijuana from the federal government’s list of most dangerous outlawed drugs, according to the Washington Post.

The same Gallup report says Democrats and independents are the "most likely" of "political groups" to favor legalization while Republicans and older Americans are least likely to support it.

Late last week, Republican Donald Trump, speaking at a rally, said states should be allowed to legalize marijuana if they choose to do so, according to the Post.

This was a softer stance on the subject for Trump, who says he doesn’t drink or smoke tobacco.

Two of the other leading Republican candidates are holding the line. Republican, Marco Rubio would enforce federal law against states that have legalized marijuana use.

And Republican Ben Carson, who is leading in the polls, is a retired neurosurgeon who staunchly opposes legalization. Many studies, he says, show marijuana has a harmful effect on a brain as it develops, which continues into a person’s late twenties.

"So why would we even think about it?" he asked. "This should be completely off the table."

Our ruling

Gallup’s survey has found that a "majority" of Americans support marijuana legalization. It’s been a trend that a few of the candidates for president have reflected in their campaigns.

Tvert got it right. The statement is True.


Our Sources, Marijuana Policy Project, "New Gallup Poll Finds 58% Support Making Marijuana Legal," Oct. 21, 2015, accessed Oct. 27, 2015, "In U.S. 58 percent back legal marijuana use," Oct. 21, 2015, accessed Nov. 2., "On Marijuana, what Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would do," Oct. 14, 2015, accessed Nov. 2, 2015., "Trump softens position on marijuana legalization," Oct. 29, 2015, accessed Nov. 2, 2015., "Ben Carson on why his perspective as a black man is important to the GOP," Feb. 26, 2015, accessed Nov. 3, 2015., "Rubio says he would use federal law to crack down on marijuana," Aug. 10, 2015, accessed Nov. 3, 2015.


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