It's Official. We're All Potheads Now

Nicholas Kamm, AFP/Getty ImagesA man wears a T-shirt calling for the legalization of marijuana at last month's annual Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington, D.C.

"All the cool kids are doing it" -- and now they might even vote for it.

That's the upshot of a recent poll out of Pew Research Center, which shows that the scales are now tipping decidedly in favor of nationwide legalization of marijuana. According to Pew, America passed the 50 percent mark for favoring legalization nationwide back in October, with 52 percent of voters now supporting it. And now, one of the presumably hardest-core groups opposing legalization -- Republicans -- is starting to throw its support behind legalization as well.

%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-956%Broadly speaking, Pew's research finds that registered Democrats favor legalization more often than Republicans do. But among millennials (i.e., voters in their 20s and early 30s), Pew finds that 63 percent of Republican voters now support legalizing marijuana outright -- no prescriptions or medical-use-only ID cards required. That's 14 percentage points fewer than millennial Democrats who support legalization, and about on par with Democratic baby boomers and Generation Xers.

Meanwhile, support for the contrary argument -- putting marijuana users in prison -- is rapidly evaporating across party lines. Says Pew: "Most Americans (76%) think that people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana should not have to serve time in jail, with large majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agreeing on the issue."

What Does Your State Say?

Currently, four states -- Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, along with the District of Columbia, permit smoking marijuana recreationally. Alaska's and D.C's ballot measures, though, only went into effect in just the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, 26 jurisdictions -- including those five above -- have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In alphabetical order, these include:

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Delaware

  • District of Columbia

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Iowa

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • Missouri

  • Montana

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • New Mexico

  • New York

  • Oregon

  • Rhode Island

  • Vermont

  • Washington state

And four more -- Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio -- have decriminalized possession of marijuana.

California has the nation's oldest medical marijuana law (Proposition 215, passed by a majority of voters in 1996). Washington and Oregon have arguably the most lenient medical marijuana laws (both states permit the possession of up to 24 ounces of pot). But Massachusetts gives them a run for their money -- permitting licensed medical marijuana users to keep as much as a 60-day pot supply on hand. Depending on how often you smoke it, that could be a lot of pot...

Finally, a handful of states, including Alabama and Florida, have hedged on the issue, permitting the use of a prescription marijuana extract known as cannabidiol, or CBD, but not permitting smoking of marijuana per se.

What the Future Holds

With a majority of voters now supporting the legalization of marijuana, we may be approaching a legislative tipping point. According to marijuana policy website, as many as six more states are likely to approve full legalization in the near future:

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Maine

  • Massachusetts

  • Nevada

  • Wyoming

Voters on a Leafly-sponsored poll, however, say New Mexico has a slightly better chance of passing legalization before Wyoming does. But whichever state is next to legalize pot, one thing is certain: With younger voters of all political stripes now favoring legalization, it doesn't matter how many older voters still oppose it. The laws of demographics, and the actuarial tables, make it certain that in time, legalization will happen -- everywhere in the U.S.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith lives and writes in Indiana, where it's still illegal to buy beer at the grocery store on Sundays. He's pretty certain that whichever state is next to legalize pot, Indiana will be last. He owns no "marijuana stocks," nor does The Motley Fool. Check out our free report for one great stock to buy for this year and beyond.