It’s hard to believe there was a time not so long ago when the word “marijuana” was whispered rather than spoken freely and openly. Times have changed though, and a recent Gallup poll revealed that 64% of Americans believe marijuana use should be legal. For the first time since Gallup began running this poll in 1969, more than half of Republicans said they support marijuana legalization (51%), which is an increase of nine points over the poll’s 2016 results. The data reveals that acceptance of marijuana has tipped the scales with the majority of Americans believing it is now socially acceptable.
That’s good news for the marijuana industry, particularly since these results are mirrored in multiple studies. In fact, recent surveys by Pew Research Center, Quinnipiac University, CBS News, and Fox News all revealed similar results. Overall, 61% of respondents to the Pew Research Center, Quinnipiac University, and CBS News surveys reported that they believe marijuana should be legal. In the Fox New survey, 59% of respondents said they think marijuana should be legal.
In addition, the Quinnipiac University study asked respondents if they believe medical marijuana should be legal. An overwhelming 94% of respondents said they support legalization of medical marijuana. Bottom-line, acceptance of both medical and recreational marijuana among Americans has been growing rapidly and shows no signs of changing.
Growing Acceptance of the Business of Marijuana
Americans are becoming more comfortable with marijuana as an industry, too. In fact, many Americans are willing to invest in marijuana businesses. Last year, a Yahoo News and Marist Poll survey gauged Americans’ feelings about the marijuana industry and found that if marijuana was legalized in the United States, 29% of Americans would be interested in investing in a marijuana business. Interestingly, nearly 10% of the people who indicated they would be interested in investing in the industry also said they have never tried marijuana before.
Another particularly interesting finding from the survey is related to banking. At a time when it’s still very difficult for marijuana businesses to find banks that will work with them, 52% of Americans approve of their banks investing in marijuana farms or businesses.
Making it even more clear just how far marijuana has come on its road to acceptance is how many Americans approve of their retirement funds having investments in marijuana farms and businesses. Overall, 51% of American adults approve.
With such large numbers of Americans supporting the legalization of marijuana, it’s not surprising that the legal cannabis market is expected to reach more than $24 billion by 2025 according to New Frontier Data’s annual cannabis industry report for 2017. Not only do consumers want access to marijuana products, but business and residents who understand the marijuana industry benefits states and communities through job creation and taxes want it, too. In other words, consumers, investors, and regulators are all becoming more accepting of marijuana.
According to the data collected through New Frontier Data’s study, the legal marijuana industry could create over 28,000 jobs in states that currently have medical or recreational laws in place. Of course, if the number of states with marijuana programs increases, this number will increase, too. It is expected that 35% of those jobs will be in retail operations, 22% in administration, 15% in management, 16% in manufacturing, and 12% in agriculture.
Furthermore, New Frontier Data reports that marijuana sales (both medical and adult-use) generated $745 million in tax revenue in 2017. In total, $609 million of that $745 million came from marijuana-specific taxes, such as Washington’s 37% excise tax on marijuana. The remaining $136 million came from state sales taxes applied to retail sales. New Frontier Data projects that marijuana tax revenues could climb to $2.3 billion by 2020 with $1.8 billion of that tax revenue coming from marijuana-specific taxes.
Acceptance Does Not Always Equal Accessibility
Despite what the data shows in terms of the growth in marijuana acceptance in the United States, accessibility to purchase marijuana still has a long way to go. Dozens of states have yet to legalize medical marijuana, and only eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. In addition, rules and regulations limit accessibility in states where medical and/or recreational marijuana have been legalized.
Cannabiz Media has identified many barriers to marijuana accessibility, and these barriers vary from state to state. Some example obstacles to medical marijuana accessibility include:
- Required recommendations from an approved and registered doctor
- Patient registration fees
- Reciprocity rules
- Limited covered conditions
- Restrictions on dispensary numbers and locations
- Local rules limiting or banning marijuana businesses
- License structure requirements
- Product forms available
Each of the above obstacles limits the ability of Americans’ to access medical marijuana. However, the Yahoo News and Marist Poll survey found the majority of Americans believe marijuana is socially acceptable, support legalization of medical marijuana, and believe marijuana is less dangerous than tobacco (76%), alcohol (70%), or opiates (67%).
When you consider how the tides have changed for the marijuana industry in terms of public opinion, it’s not a stretch to assume Americans will eventually demand that many of these obstacles be removed to provide greater accessibility. It should just be a matter of time at this point.
Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Originally published 5/10/17. Updated 2/23/18.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.