The vast majority of people who support marijuana legalization aren’t looking to just get high, a new poll finds.
In fact, 86% of supporters cite the drug’s benefits to those who use it medicinally as a “very important” reason they favor legalization, according to a Gallup poll of more than 1,000 U.S. adults conducted between May 15 and May 30.
There is evidence that cannabis and/or cannabinoids can help with conditions like pain, multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms and chemotherapy-related nausea, according to a 2017 research review by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.
Other reasons respondents deemed “very important” included freeing up law enforcement to focus on other types of crime (70%), marijuana use being a matter of personal choice and freedom (60%), providing a tax-revenue source for state and local governments (56%), increased safety for marijuana users due to government regulation (47%), and the belief that marijuana isn’t harmful to users (35%).
Sixty-four percent of respondents thought marijuana ought to be legalized, 34% said it should be illegal and 2% had no opinion. As for why opponents didn’t want marijuana legalized, nearly eight in 10 said the potential increase in marijuana-involved car accidents was a “very important” reason for their disapproval. Additional top reasons included the notion that marijuana was a gateway to stronger and more addictive drugs (69%) and the possibility that more people would use marijuana (62%).
Gallup’s main finding tracks with a recent survey by market-research firm Nielsen, which found that one in three U.S. adults aged 21 and up were interested in using legalized cannabis, and those who said they’d consume the drug if it were legalized were most likely to cite pain treatment and other wellness-related reasons.
Top reasons cited for potential cannabis consumption included treatment of chronic pain (85%), mental-health improvement (82%), treatment of minor injuries (81%), sleep aid (77%) and relaxation (74%).
Additional sources of interest in consuming cannabis included treatment of a non-pain medical condition (63%), disease or ailment prevention (60%), improvement of physical health (58%) and having a good time with friends and family (48%). Enhancement of spirituality rounded out the bottom of the list, at 28%.
What’s more, around four in 10 people who have headache or migraine pain (40%), people who have arthritic pain (40%) and people who have back and neck pain (41%) expressed an interest in cannabis consumption.
A majority of folks who would use cannabis and have an ailment said they already used an over-the-counter or prescription medication to treat it. Such ailments include headaches and migraines, back and neck pain, arthritis pain, “feminine pain,” general aches and pains, trouble falling asleep and cancer pain.
As for why cannabis-curious adults who use other medications would weigh the psychoactive drug to treat their symptoms, seven in 10 perceived it to be more effective than over-the-counter or prescription options, and 67% thought it was healthier. Sixty-nine percent, meanwhile, said cannabis seemed “more natural.”
Thirty-four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal marijuana use, and 10 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use. Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey are also considering legalizing recreational use, though recent efforts appear to have stalled.
This widespread marijuana legalization tracks with Americans’ steadily rising support over the past several decades: 62% think marijuana use should be made legal, according to a 2018 Pew Research survey, up from 31% in 2000 and just 16% in 1990. Some 65% of Americans now consider smoking marijuana to be morally acceptable, recent Gallup polling has found.
Meanwhile, the legal cannabis market continues to grow at a rapid pace. It was worth about $8.3 billion in 2017 and will reach nearly $25 billion by 2025, according to 2018 estimates by the cannabis-industry data and analytics firm New Frontier Data.
Market leader Canopy Growth Corp. CGC, +0.48% is up 57.7% for the year to date, while Aurora Cannabis Inc. ACB, -0.51% is up 54.4%. That’s compared to an 11.4% increase for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.12% and a 14.8% increase for the S&P 500 SPX, +0.43% over the same period.