News broke Tuesday that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was moving to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I controlled substance to a less severe Schedule III controlled substance. While the process still requires a White House Office of Management and Budget review and a public comment period, should it come to fruition, it would signal a seismic shift in the country’s marijuana policy.

According to CivicScience sentiment tracking data following the news, nearly half (45%) of Americans express a favorable opinion toward the reclassification effort. This figure marks a slight decrease in favorability from when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services first recommended the change last August. There appears to be a rare level of consensus across age demographics, with approval percentages consistently falling between 45% and 47%. However, adults aged 45-54 demonstrate the lowest level of positivity, with only 42% expressing approval, while the 55+ crowd represents the highest level of disapproval.

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That being said, there are noteworthy differences along political lines – Democrats are roughly 20 percentage points more likely than Republicans and Independents to express positive feelings about the reclassification effort. Close to 2-in-5 Republicans, meanwhile, are negative about the change.

The announcement comes at a time when Americans’ overall cannabis usage has gone down over the past year, but daily usage has risen steadily since 2020. Additional data find the majority of cannabis users (62%) are happy with the schedule change. While non-users are largely split, they’re more likely to be positive (34%) than negative (30%). 

With the election season in full swing, crime is often a hot-button issue. Will this proposed change have any effect on voters who care about the topic? Data show that Americans at least ‘somewhat’ concerned about crime in their community are 15 points more likely than those who are ‘not at all’ concerned to be in favor of the reclassification.   

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A schedule change won’t legalize marijuana across the country or instantly free those jailed for related crimes. Yet, it would signify a significant governmental shift, potentially fostering more research and easing burdens on the cannabis industry in legal states. While public opinion leans towards this shift, the unfolding narrative, particularly against the backdrop of the fiercely contested 2024 election, warrants close observation.

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