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Republican voters changed their mind on legal pot: now they're for it

For the first time, people who vote conservative in the US are in favor of legalizing marijuana.

by Elian Peltier
Jul 22 2016, 3:00pm

A pro-marijuana rally in Atlanta, Georgia, in February 2015. Photo by Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Republican voters may not be the first constituency that comes to mind when thinking of people who support the legalization of marijuana in the US — but now they do, for the first time.

The latest data compiled by research firm YouGov show that Republicans who support the legalization of marijuana outnumber those who oppose it: 45 percent of Republican voters are in favor of marijuana legalization, versus 42 percent against it. That had never happened before.

Only 28 percent of Republicans supported legalizing marijuana in January, 2014, but this number has increased over the past few years, with an even more significant increase over the past several months. Just last December, 36 percent of Republicans were in favor of a legalization, while 50 percent still opposed it.

The shift in Republicans' opinions has come as overall support for legalization in the United States has risen too, from 52 percent in December to 55 percent.

Opinions from Republican voters seem not to match those of their leaders: although several of the 2016 Republican primary contenders, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, have admitted to trying pot, they all oppose its legalization.

Donald Trump, who is now the official Republican nominee for president, is also against. "I think it's bad," Trump said, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in June 2015, about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. "Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it's bad, and I feel strongly about that."

Trump's views on the topic have changed over the past three decades. Mother Jones spotted the Republican presidential candidate advocating for the legalization of marijuana in a local newspaper back in 1990. "We're losing badly the war on drugs," Trump said at the time. "You have to legalize drugs to win that war."

Related: Weed legalization will be on the ballot this November in California

54 percent of Republicans think that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth, according to the YouGov poll.

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — and legal for medical use in 21 more.