Gallup has published its 2012 list of the top ten states with the most liberals in the country.  To a strong degree this same list can be used as a stand in for the list of states most likely to support marijuana legalization. From Gallup:

Top 10 Liberal States, 2011

When Gallup last conducted a national poll on marijuana legalization it found that 50 percent of adults in this country support the idea, while 46 percent are opposed. Of all the subgroups in the poll, it was self described “Liberals” that were by far the most supportive of legalization. At a national level Liberals are more likely than Democrats, Independents, Moderates, and even adults age 18-29 to think marijuana should be made legal. An overwhelming 69 percent of Liberals think marijuana should be legal.

Pew Research found a similar result the last time it polled on this issue. In its poll last year it found that “Liberal Democrats” were by far the subgroup most supportive of marijuana legalization. From Gallup and Pew:

Support for Legalizing Use of Marijuana, by Subgroup, October 2011

Given how much more strongly Liberals support marijuana legalization than any other ideological group, any state with a large percentage of liberals is going to be very favorably inclined towards supporting legalization. In fact, in the past few months state polls found there was majority support among all voters — a subset of the population that tends to be more opposed to marijuana than all adults —  for legalization in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. Not surprisingly all three states are among the ten most Liberal in the country.

Since marijuana legalization still remains a very taboo subject among American politicians, it is unlikely that legislatures in even these liberal states will take the bold step to be one of the first states to move forward with a law ending marijuana prohibition at the state level. The best hope for marijuana legalization for now will be using the initiative process to put the issue on the ballot for the voters to decide in these liberal states. Of the ten most Liberal states only four, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and California, allow regular citizens to put an initiative on the ballot. For these basic demographic and technical reasons these four states are extremely likely to be among the very first states in the country to legalize marijuana.

The District of Colombia also technically has a ballot initiative process, but Congress has the power to stop the District from enacting its own laws. For two decades Congress stopped DC from implementing a medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in 1998. Because of the lack of real autonomy, DC is unlikely to be a good place for a marijuana legalization initiative campaign.

Not surprisingly Washington state was the first state this year to get a marijuana legalization ballot initiative, I-502, certified to appear on the general election ballot. Colorado, the other state that at this time is almost assured to have a marijuana legalization initiative on the ballot, did not make the top ten list of states with most Liberals, but it came in at number 16, well within the top third.

Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at