For the first time ever, a solid majority of Americans supports legalizing marijuana for recreational use: 56%, according to the most recent Rasmussen poll. Support for legalization has been growing steadily since the 1990s; in 1994, just 25% were in favor.
In November 2010, California residents voted on a ballot initiative to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana. Although the measure failed to pass — 46% to 54% — the fact that the initiative made it onto the ballot and garnered that much support was itself historic. Indeed, it was fear of the initiative’s passage that led then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to decriminalize possession of up to 1 oz. of pot shortly before the vote — a move that was intended to bleed voter support from the ballot question. Had it passed, California would have been the first state to legalize the drug outright. In 2012, Colorado and Washington State will vote on total legalization.
Because support for legalization tracks closely with age, change would seem inevitable in the long run. The most recent Gallup poll found that 62% of people ages 18 to 29 favor full legalization, compared with 31% of senior citizens. As far as medical marijuana goes, Americans are nearly unanimous in their approval: 70% or more support it.