Americans Want Germany’s Weed Laws

Image by manish panghal.

Much to the joy of many of its citizens, and perhaps to the chagrin of a significant number of others, Germany has just decriminalized marijuana. Adults in Germany can now carry up to 25 grams of cannabis for their own consumption and store up to 50 grams at home, as well as keep three plants for home cultivation. Public consumption will be allowed, so long as it is not within sight of children or near sports facilities. It will also be prohibited in pedestrian zones between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Special cannabis clubs will be allowed to grow and purchase the drug on a limited basis from July 1. The clubs can have up to 500 members.

While the move comes with these crucial caveats, it is still a major step for a country that until now avoided stepping into the weed abyss.

Across the pond, many Americans are still waiting to gain the freedoms Germans now have and as time passes, more Americans support the move.

According to Pew Research Center, more states are passing laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use and Americans “continue to favor legalization of both medical and recreational use of the drug.”

Pew notes that “an overwhelming share of U.S. adults (88%) say marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use.”

This means that nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) believe that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational purposes, while roughly a third (32%) say that marijuana should be legal for medical use only.

“Just 11% of Americans say that the drug should not be legal at all,” according to Pew.

And according to Gallup polling, “Seventeen percent of Americans in 2023 reported they smoke marijuana, similar to the 16% found in 2022 but higher than the 11% to 13% range recorded from 2015 to 2021.

Interestingly, Gallup noted in Nov. 2023 that “Twelve percent of Americans backed legalizing marijuana when Gallup first asked about it in 1969. Support cracked the 50% threshold in 2013, jumping 10 percentage points to 58% after Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.”

Marijuana use in America has allegedly more than doubled since 2013, when Gallup first added the question in its annual Consumption Habits survey. That year, 7% said they did.

Gallup also found that age is “a significant driver” of the likelihood of smoking marijuana. About a quarter of young adults, those aged 18 to 34, say they smoke marijuana (26%), but reported use falls to 18% among adults aged 35 to 54 and is even lower, 11%, among adults aged 55 and older.

Marijuana usage varies across other demographic groups. Men (19%) are more likely than women (14%) to use marijuana. College graduates (9%) are about half as likely as those without a college degree (21%) to smoke marijuana. Democrats (22%) are more likely than Republicans (12%) to report smoking marijuana, with independents’ rate (17%) falling between them.

Civic Science conducted its own survey and, similar to Gallup, has found that cannabis is quite popular among young adults today. Nearly 60% of Gen Z adults (18-24) say they use it at least monthly. They’re followed by 55% of young Millennials (25-34), who also average as the biggest daily users.

The bottom line, as Gallup points out, is that the American people have reached a broad consensus on legalizing marijuana, with a full seven in 10 now supportive. Today, most U.S. adults favor it, and so do majorities of all major political and ideological subgroups.

Of course, some health organizations and commentators have raised concerns about the medical risks of marijuana, but this hasn’t diminished the public’s desire for legalization. Many people are willing to accept the health consequences and even view marijuana as healthier than tobacco cigarettes or even vaping. For now, according to Gallup, “the high level of support among younger adults suggests national backing will only expand in the years ahead, likely resulting in more states, and perhaps the federal government, moving to legalize it.”

Chloe Atkinson is a climate change activist and consultant on global climate affairs.