Getting High: Public Opinion on Marijuana Legalization in 4 Charts

Source: David McNew/Getty Images

David McNew/Getty Images

Anyone who has been paying an ounce of attention to the news over the past couple of years is well aware that the nation’s attitudes towards drugs — and marijuana in particular — are going through a radical shift. Data has shown that the War on Drugs has turned out to be a monumental failure, wasting billions, if not trillions of dollars and leading to the incarceration of untold amounts of people. As the Internet has allowed more people to access information easily, it’s also become common knowledge that marijuana is not the incredibly dangerous narcotic it was made out to be for many generations, and instead could be a real driver of economic prosperity — if we allow it to be.

During the 2012 election cycle, both Colorado and Washington became the first states to pass legislation legalizing marijuana for recreational use within their borders. The news was met with great fervor, and everyone across the country has sat back and watched with much anticipation to see what the fallout would be. The DEA announced they would let the states’ experiment proceed forward without interference, and so far, things have gone off without a hitch. Tax revenue is pouring in, access to cannabis has become safer and convenient, and other states are getting to work drafting their own legislation to follow in Colorado and Washington’s footsteps.

The positive effects of the legalization process have really been undeniable in both Colorado and Washington. Fewer people are getting in trouble with the law, police officers have one less thing to worry about, and it’s opening up an entire new industry for entrepreneurs and investors to wade into. Still, there are some holdouts who still believe cannabis should be outlawed and criminalized. For the most part, the divide in attitudes has been along generational and political lines, but those rifts are starting to close up, which is one of the major reasons the legalization efforts have been able to pick up steam.

Looking at data collected by the Pew Research Center, we can take a closer look at exactly how these shifts are happening, and when they started to occur. Read on to see four charts explaining the generational and political shifts in marijuana legalization attitudes that are driving the U.S. towards new drug policies, and as a result, economic prosperity in the brand new cannabis industry.