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Has Support for Legal Marijuana Plateaued?

Legal marijuana is among the buzziest investments on Wall Street today. Over the trailing-two-year period, nearly all of the largest pot stocks by market cap have delivered triple- or quadruple-digit percentage gains for marijuana investors, handily outpacing a strong bull market.

In recent months, excitement has begun to build as our neighbor to the north prepares to legalize recreational cannabis. In Canada, medicinal marijuana has been legal since 2001, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has intimated for years that he’d like to see adult-use cannabis made legal during his term. With the Cannabis Act presented and prepared for vote in June, it looks to be simply a matter of time before adults over the age of 18 are legally allowed to buy weed in Canada.

Has support for legal marijuana in the U.S. peaked?

Meanwhile, progress in the U.S. has been at a snail’s pace. Even though 29 states have broad-sweeping medical marijuana laws on their books and nine states have OK’d the use of recreational pot, the federal government has stood by its Schedule I classification. As a Schedule I drug, marijuana is wholly illegal, considered to be highly prone to abuse, and has no recognized medical benefits.

Yet we know from countless national surveys undertaken from the likes of Gallup, Pew Research Center, and Fox News that the American public favors the idea of legalization. Between 1995, the year prior to California becoming the first state to legalize medical marijuana for compassionate-use patients, and 2017, Gallup finds that support for legalization soared from 25% to 64%. Similar favorability is seen in the other polls, as well.

However, a newly released survey from CBS News on Friday, April 20 delivered a bit of a surprise. After polling around 1,000 adults across the country in April 2017, CBS News found that 61% supported legalizing pot. But in the April 2018 poll, this figure had fallen 2 percentage points, to 59%, with 36% opposed (up 3% from the previous year). Keep in mind that the margin of error for this survey was plus-or-minus 4%, so this 2% drop from the previous year still falls within that range.

Nevertheless, it’s the first time CBS News has reported a year-on-year decline in support of legalizing cannabis, and it certainly makes one wonder whether support for the legal cannabis movement is plateauing. If the industry has any hope for a rescheduling or descheduling of cannabis, it will need favorability to continue marching higher.

A potted cannabis plant next to a bottle of wine.

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