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  • Christopher D.

Most Americans Support Marijuana Legalization


It's no secret that public opinion on marijuana legalization in the United States has shifted dramatically in recent years. A growing number of states have embraced regulated marijuana programs, whether for medical use, adult-use, or both. And according to multiple polls and studies, a solid majority of Americans are on board with ending prohibition.  


This trend holds true in West Virginia as well. Despite the state's relatively new and still developing medical marijuana program, the data shows that most Mountain State residents want to see broader marijuana reforms enacted. Let's take a closer look at where public opinion stands on this issue locally and nationally.


National Support for Legalization Continues to Grow  

In 2022, five different national polls found that between 60-68% of Americans believe marijuana should be made legal across the United States. This represents roughly a 20 percentage point increase in public support compared to just a decade ago.


One of the most comprehensive surveys was conducted by Gallup in October 2022. Their poll determined that 68% of American adults are in favor of legalizing marijuana - the highest level of public support they've recorded since first asking the question back in 1969. Only 32% said they opposed legalization.


Breaking it down further, Gallup found majority support for legalization across most major demographic groups:


  • 83% of adults under 35 support legalization 

  • 76% of Democrats are in favor

  • 71% of Independents support it

  • Even 50% of self-identified Republicans expressed support for ending marijuana prohibition


An April 2022 poll from Pew Research Center produced similar results. They found that 88% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized in some form - 59% for both medical and recreational use and 30% for medical use only. Just 10% opposed any form of legalization.


The Pew survey also explored public perceptions of the impacts of legalization in states that have ended prohibition. A narrow majority (52%) said legalizing recreational marijuana benefited local economies, while just 17% saw it as economically harmful. Additionally, 42% said adult-use legalization made the justice system fairer versus only 19% who felt it decreased fairness.


Support for Medical Marijuana Even Stronger

When you drill down to just medical marijuana, public approval climbs even higher nationally. An April 2022 poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research revealed that a robust 85% of Americans are in favor of allowing marijuana for medical uses.


This includes:


  • 92% of Democrats

  • 84% of Independents 

  • 80% of Republicans


The bipartisan consensus underscores how much stigma has faded around medical marijuana in a relatively short period of time. In 1995, only 25% of Americans backed allowing medical marijuana according to a Pew poll.


Medical Marijuana Public Opinion in West Virginia

In 2017, West Virginia became one of the first states in the Bible Belt region to legalize medical marijuana after the state legislature passed SB 386 with overwhelming bipartisan support. This was despite decriminalization efforts failing just two years prior.


More recently, the state contracted with Virginia-based research firm BCKL to study resident sentiment on potentially legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. According to the December 2021 report, 59% of West Virginians said they would support legalizing marijuana "similarly to how alcohol is regulated in West Virginia."


The research also highlighted some key differences in opinion among different demographics:


  • Support was higher among younger residents (70% for ages 18-34)

  • Approval declined with age (only 41% support for ages 65+)

  • Support was lowest among self-identified Republicans (47%) 

  • Independents strongly backed legalization (66% support)

  • Democrats were most in favor (73%)


While this survey focused on recreational marijuana, approval for medical marijuana access and use is likely even higher than the 59% level of support found.


West Virginia's Evolving Medical Marijuana Program

Despite the state's conservative reputation, opinions and policy have steadily shifted in favor of providing ailing residents with access to medical marijuana products. The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act was signed into law in 2017 to establish a comprehensive regulatory system to oversee the state's new medical marijuana program.


Under the Act, patients with qualifying medical conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, chronic pain, and more can obtain a medical marijuana identification card to purchase marijuana from licensed dispensaries. As of May 2022, West Virginia had registered over 10,000 medical marijuana patients. Over 25 dispensary permits have been issued by the Office of Medical Cannabis.


While West Virginia's program does not currently allow patients to grow marijuana at home for personal use, proposed legislation aims to change that. HB 2568, introduced in January 2023, would create a system for registered patients and caregivers to cultivate a limited number of marijuana plants.


This bill and others represent a steady push to improve access, affordability and convenience for patients who could benefit from medical marijuana. Public support and personal testimonies from cardholders tout the benefits they've experienced like reduced pain and inflammation, better sleep, and improved quality of life.


West Virginia lawmakers are also considering adding new qualifying conditions beyond the initial 16 approved conditions. Polls show strong resident backing for allowing medical marijuana to be used for mental health issues like anxiety and depression.


Why Get a Medical Marijuana Card in West Virginia?

For qualifying West Virginia residents suffering from debilitating medical issues, obtaining a medical marijuana card opens the door to a safe, legal form of alternative treatment.


While the upfront costs of the application and annual fees may give some patients sticker shock, the long-term health benefits can make it very worthwhile. Medical marijuana has been shown to provide relief for a variety of conditions and symptoms when other conventional options have fallen short.


Some of the key advantages of having a medical marijuana card in West Virginia include:


  • Legal protection from criminal penalties for possession/use of marijuana  

  • Access to dispensaries with regulated, tested marijuana products

  • Ability to work with medical providers on optimal treatment plans

  • More affordable products through tax exceptions

  • Potentially lower costs for other medications if replacing them

  • Option to cultivate plants at home if/when home grow is approved


West Virginia's medical marijuana program is still nascent compared to other state programs. However, steady improvements and expansions seem likely given the trajectory of public opinion and the obvious benefits for many patients. A valid medical card allows participation in this life-changing form of treatment.


A Future of Broader Acceptance in West Virginia?

While medical marijuana continues to be the focus for now in West Virginia, residents seem open to the idea of full adult-use legalization following the path of many other states. The 2021 BCKL survey shows 59% support among residents for a regulated recreational marijuana program.


This lines up with national polling that has consistently found the majority of Americans — around 6 in 10 — are in favor of legalizing marijuana nationwide. Residents and policymakers in West Virginia are clearly feeling more comfortable embracing marijuana policy reforms that could provide economic, criminal justice and health benefits.


As more qualifying medical conditions get approved, the West Virginia medical marijuana program expands, and the social stigma around marijuana fades, it seems plausible that outright legalization for all adults could eventually be a viable policy shift. This would bring West Virginia in line with neighbors like Maryland, Illinois, Michigan and Virginia which all allow recreational marijuana.


For now, the state appears focused on responsibly developing its fledgling medical program. But as public opinion keeps marching in a pro-marijuana direction, added pressure will likely mount for West Virginia to become the next state to make marijuana legal for all purposes.


Get Your Medical Marijuana Card Today!

Medical marijuana is legal in the State of West Virginia, and you can apply for your very own medical card today! You need your medical card to visit any dispensary in the state.


If you think you may benefit from medical marijuana, there is a good chance you will qualify for a card. It is now easier than ever to get your card with telemedicine, right from the comfort of your own home!


Being a West Virginia medical marijuana patient allows you the freedom to establish your own personalized treatment plan. We’re dedicated to helping patients every step of the way!


Feel free to give us a call at 877-303-8424 and we can answer your questions about getting a medical marijuana card in West Virginia.


 

Doctors Who Care.

Relief You Can Trust.


West Virginia Marijuana Card’s mission is to help everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.


If you have any questions, call us at 877-303-8424, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!


Check out West Virginia Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.

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