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On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug. The move would constitute a significant policy shift that could potentially lessen or even eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession. 

President Biden requested reviewing a schedule change last October when he pardoned thousands convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law. While CivicScience data revealed Biden’s actions found favor with most at the time, nearly half of Americans felt the move didn’t go far enough. This reclassification could pave the way for doing just that.

Fresh CivicScience data following the HHS announcement show rescheduling marijuana carries similar levels of popularity as Biden’s earlier pardons. Sixty-seven percent of Americans who have an opinion on the matter express a favorable stance toward the recommendation – nearly half (44%) feel ‘very positive,’ more than double those who are ‘very negative.’

Positive vibes reign among all age groups, but Gen X is the most favorable, with 49% saying they’re ‘very positive’ about the potential change – 20 percentage points higher than their younger Gen Z counterparts. Unsurprisingly, the majority (77%) of cannabis users are happy about a potential marijuana rescheduling, while 65% of those who don’t use cannabis are also supportive. 

Support for Legalization and Regulation Holds Steady, More Than 3 in 5 Republicans Are Supportive

Minnesota recently became the 23rd state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, while CivicScience polling in April found support for legalization and regulation at a high mark. The latest run of ongoing tracking data reveal the monthly percentage of those in favor has held relatively steady, around 62%, compared to 27% who oppose legalization.

This issue seems to transcend party lines, uniting individuals from across the political spectrum. Leading the charge are Democrats, with 78% showing their endorsement, followed by 70% of Independents who share the same sentiment. A noteworthy 61% of Republicans favor legalizing and regulating marijuana. All eyes will be on Ohio in November as voters in the Republican-controlled state will get the chance to vote to allow adults 21+ to buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis. 

While more hotly contested and divisive issues like abortion, federal spending, and climate change look to hold most of the spotlight as we enter the primary season, a major policy change around marijuana could carry ramifications in the months and years ahead. 

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