Two in three Americans say federal government should legalize cannabis for at least medicinal use

Half believe a cannabis tax will improve neighborhoods

The author(s)
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs
  • Jennifer Berg Director, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, April 20, 2021 — According to a new Ipsos KnowledgePanel poll, a plurality of Americans think the federal government should legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use. Two in ten think it should be legalized for medicinal use only. 

Detailed Findings

Forty-five percent of Americans, a plurality, say the federal government should legalize cannabis for medical and recreation use.

  • Around 20% each say it should be legalized for medical use only or left to the states to decide. Just 11% believe it should remain illegal.
  • This viewpoint gains plurality support across regions, gender, generations, and income levels. Differences emerge by political affiliation though: Republicans are split while pluralities of Democrats and Independents say it should be legalized for all uses.

Around half of Americans believe that taxes from cannabis sales will improve neighborhoods and that it is less harmful to one’s health than alcohol or tobacco. Yet, around a third are less optimistic about its legalization.

  • Forty-nine percent think cannabis is less harmful health-wise than other drugs, like alcohol and tobacco. At the same time, one in three see it as a “gateway drug”.
  • Fifty percent of Americans agree that cannabis sales taxes will aid communities, but around a third think the legalization of cannabis will benefit the rich more than the poor (34%). A quarter believe that crime is or will be higher around dispensaries.
  • While younger cohorts (aged 25-49), Democrats and Independents have more optimistic views on the legalization of cannabis, Republicans and older Americans (65+) have more negative positions.



This Ipsos Poll is based on interviews conducted from April 16-18, 2021. A total of 1,017 interviews were completed. The margin of error on weighted data is +/- 3.3 percentage points for the full sample. The design effect for this study was 1.15.

The KnowledgePanel Omnibus using the KnowledgePanel™ is a national online omnibus service of Ipsos Public Affairs. KnowledgePanel is the largest commercially available online probability panel in the marketplace. The sample is truly projectable to the US population, which sets it apart from traditional “opt-in” or “convenience” panels.

  • To recruit panel members, we use ABS (address-based sampling) as the primary methodology—a probability-based approach that includes cellphone-only households.
  • For non-Internet households, we provide Internet access and a laptop for the completion of online surveys: Therefore, the sample is not limited to only those who already have Internet access.
  • The representativeness of its sample—including hard-to-reach groups such as young adults, males and minorities—has been documented in numerous academic papers.

Each wave's KP Omnibus consists of 1,000 completed interviews. All respondents are 18 years of age or older, and approximately equal numbers of male and female adults are provided. All completed interviews are weighted to ensure accurate and reliable representation of the total US population, 18 years and older.

The raw data are weighted by a custom-designed computer program, which automatically develops a weighting factor for each respondent. This procedure employs several variables, including age, sex, education, race, household income, metropolitan/non-metropolitan status, and geographic region. Each interview is assigned a single weight derived from the relationship between the actual proportion of the population with its specific combination of age, sex, education, race and geographic characteristics and the proportion in our sample that week. Tabular results* show both weighted and unweighted bases for these demographic variables.

Because of the use of rigid and replicable sampling, fielding, and weighting procedures, all KP Omnibus studies are parallel to one another. This affords the opportunity to draw trend comparisons, as well as point-in-time analysis.

In addition to the standard breakdowns by sex, age, income and region, the following classification items have been obtained and are available to subscribers:

  • Marital Status
  • Employment Status
  • Home Ownership
  • Head of Household
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Education
  • Housing type
  • Family Size/Composition

Optional panel profiled variables, such as Political Party ID and Voter Registration, are available upon a request at an additional fee.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Chris Jackson
Senior Vice President, U.S., Public Affairs
+1 202 420 2025
[email protected]

Kate Silverstein
Media Relations Specialist, U.S., Public Affairs
+1 718 755-8829
[email protected]

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest Insights and Analytics company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP

The author(s)
  • Sara Machi Research Analyst, Public Affairs
  • Jennifer Berg Director, US, Public Affairs