We already knew that the majority of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana, but what about those who would use it? Well, a new poll says many Americans would smoke up if pot were legal. That could herald a massive, lucrative new market for the drug and a potential sea change in the way Americans behave on R&R.
The HuffPost/YouGov survey found that more than a quarter of U.S. residents (26%) would buy marijuana, nearly triple the number who buy it now.
Recreational weed is legal in two states, Colorado and Washington. Medical marijuana is legal in another 18. Proposals are in the works to legalize pot for general use in at least four other states over the next three years.
The popular tide has clearly turned in favor of cannabis, not only in terms of policy but in terms of cultural acceptance. The poll found 26 percent of Americans are prepared to buy pot at least on rare occasions should it become legal in their states. Only 9 percent do so now.
The percentage of regular buyers, meanwhile, would jump from 1 percent of the population to 4 percent, according to the poll. Fully 18 percent of Americans said they would buy more pot than they already do if it became legal, including 16 percent who said they don’t buy pot now but would if they legally could.
The poll’s results varied across age ranges, with 35 percent of respondents under 30 saying they would buy legal weed while only 9 percent of those over 65 say the same. Even so, both numbers are dramatic increases, suggesting marijuana has some cross-generational appeal once legal barriers are removed.
It’s unclear what effect this pent-up demand will have on the legalization movement, but it hints at a huge untapped market for cultivators and retailers. Only state laws and federal interference stand in the way. States are beginning to reform, if slowly, and the Department of Justice has announced it won’t interfere with legalization (for the most part), but progress is likely to be fitful.
It’s also unclear how this demand will affect the way Americans ingest other chemicals. According to the poll, most will continue drinking or doing the other drugs they already do, but other research suggests legal pot acts as a substitute for booze.
According to a study prepared earlier this year, states experience an 8 to 11 percent drop in traffic deaths, on average, within a year after legalizing medical marijuana. Researchers speculated that drinkers are replacing alcohol with weed and are either less likely to drive while stoned or are better drivers stoned than drunk.
But according to the HuffPost/YougGov poll, nearly half of respondents who had used alcohol and would at least consider using legal marijuana said they would continue to buy more booze than weed. Still, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that readily available cannabis could cut down on alcohol abuse, drunk driving, and needless fatalities.