Unprecedented Support for Legalizing Marijuana?

Poll analyst Nate Silver notes that the percentage of Americans who favor marijuana legalization hit or exceeded 40 percent in three recent surveys (by Zogby, CBS News, and Rasmussen Reports), a level of support that seems to be unprecedented. "There has been a long, slow-moving upward trend in favor of legalization since roughly 1992," Silver says. He projects that if the trend continues (which, in light of the public opinion setbacks "during the Just Say No years of the 1980s," it might not), support for legalization could reach 60 percent in 13 or 14 years, at which point "things might get interesting," since "my guess is that we'll need to see a supermajority of Americans in favor of decriminalizing pot before the federal government would dare to take action on it."

Even before then, we could see significant movement at the state level, which would require no direct federal action—in fact, just the opposite. All the federal government would have to do is step back (as the Constitution requires) and allow states to experiment with different approaches. President Obama's promise to stop undermining state medical marijuana laws, assuming he follows through on it, is a step in this direction. So is the Massachusetts ballot initiative that made possessing up to an ounce of marijuana a citable offense punishable by a $100 fine, a legal change that attracted support from 65 percent of voters in November. Interestingly, California NORML, which commissioned the Zogby poll, reports that it found support for marijuana legalization is already near 60 percent on the West Coast (but adds that "the significance of this margin is questionable due to the relatively small number of respondents"). Since the vast majority of marijuana arrests are made under state law, this may be where the real action is, although allowing production and sale for recreational purposes, as opposed to decriminalization of possession or legalization of medical use, would require a level of federal forbearance not seen since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Of course I don't know about these things, but I would guess that support grows before it shrinks, and it grows faster than it has been.

    The propaganda-rich 1980s are over. The Drug War is having serious, visible consequences, especially in our neighbor to the south. The rhetoric just doesn't fit the facts, and more and more people are becoming aware of the facts.

  • BDB||

    "since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937."

    You gotta love how the drug warriors changed the "h" to a "j" to make it sound more "Mexican".

  • ||

    I am in favor of it. I'd like to grow it again, which I have not done in seven years or more. ;)

  • Atanarjuat||

    Well as commenter R C Dean (I believe) pointed out recently, decriminalization doesn't hurt the cartels the way ending prohibition altogether would. All it does is end penalties for possession of small amounts, which are not really a big deal compared to the overall effects the black market (thousands of deaths per year, etc).

  • MNG||

    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics/AP/story/918711.html

    I'd just like to take this opportunity to ask SIV how many GOP votes he expects this bill, introduced by a horrid "DemocRAT," to get.

    C'mon, it's the party closer to drug legalization, go on record...

  • JW Gacy||

    The Democrats are the party closer to legalization? In what sense? You may be completely right, but I've always had the sense that this is an issue that the two parties are essentially in lockstep on.

  • Atanarjuat||

    The Democrats are the party closer to legalization? In what sense?



    I agree, but I'd guess that people who identify as liberals are probably more friendly to the idea of decrim than people who call themselves conservative. My problem is that once decriminalization is achieved, it makes actually ending prohibition less likely, IMHO.

  • ||

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.



    Fuck the feds on this one. Fuck them very much.

  • MNG||

    "The Democrats are the party closer to legalization? In what sense?"

    In the literal sense. More Democratic pols want moves that are closer to legalization than GOP pols, and more self-identified Dems favor such a move than self-identified GOPers.

    Don't ge me wrong, not enough of either party go in the right way on this.

  • 冉爽慷||

    President Obama's promise to stop undermining state medical marijuana laws, assuming he follows through on it,



    Ever the optimist, aren't you?

  • ||

    My problem is that once decriminalization is achieved, it makes actually ending prohibition less likely, IMHO.

    You might want to rethink that. Once you get decriminalization passed, you've got the left who never met a tax they didn't like and the right who has no problem at all with sin taxes.

    They'll both want their cut. The marijuana tax will be divvied up between red and blue.

  • MNG||

    Legalizing and taxing drugs is obviously superior than locking up people for using it at all, right?

  • BDB||

    If legalization happens, it will happen very quickly and out of the blue. Everyone, all at once, will finally admit in public what they think in private--how stupid drug prohibition is and give up on it. Kind of like how Communism fell.

  • BDB||

    I don't know what will spark it or when it will happen, though.

  • ||

    I find this whole subject very taxing.

    BA DUM DUM.

    There are too many people in positions of power who are invested in the drug war. Don't you think the mafia would have prevented the repeal of Prohibition if it could have? Well, guess what: the new mafia is the law enforcement/corrections/justice system. It doesn't matter what the people think.

  • MNG||

    Epi
    I hear ya...They will not want to change their mindset, it's their "mission" in life.


    But these things do change...Once, abortion was illegal...and sodomy...and alcohol...

    Keep hope alive...

  • ||

    Sodomy, including blowjobs, as far as I know, is still illegal in Alabama.

  • ||

    I would think that Pepsico, Frito-lay and Dominoes would be all in favor of legalization.
    I know I am.

  • BDB||

    "brotherben | February 24, 2009, 8:44pm | #
    I would think that Pepsico, Frito-lay and Dominoes would be all in favor of legalization.
    I know I am."

    I think Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds would be, too.

  • economist||

    "It doesn't matter what the people think."

    Sheeple.

  • ||

    The interweb's debunking power should be in full force when it comes to prohibition. We just need the half of the country that's not paying attention to sit up.

    It's been done before by stoners for many years, but now we need all stoners and cannabis reform allies to mark their dollars. Doobies, leaves, or just 'C = $' will do. Soon enough there will be cannabis cash in everyone's hands.

  • ||

    So what accounts for that dip in the poll for pretty much all of the 80s? Nancy's "just say no" blitz? That pornographic drug-crazed 80s rock'n'roll that got Tipper and co. so hot and bothered? (We were on to you, John Denver!!!) Not having a president who was an admitted drug user, like we've had since 1992? Hoards of crack babies roaming the streets looking for an angry fix?

  • gmatts||

    The NJ State Senate just passed a bill that would allow for some form of medical marijuana (it has not yet been passed by the Assembly.

    It's one of the few brightspots to come out of that chamber in quite some time.

  • ktc2||

    I can't believe such a tepid gesture as decrim only scores 40% in polls. We are a nation of idiots.

  • ||

    "since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937."

    You gotta love how the drug warriors changed the "h" to a "j" to make it sound more "Mexican".

    your only partially correct. Actually, it was called cannabis before. The govt used the term "marihuana" because it was the mexican term at the time, and they were using the influx of migrant mexican workers as the excuse the criminalize weed at the turn of the century - before the stamp act of 37. Later on "marihuana" became too americanized so they changed it to "marijuana" to make it more foreign sounding.

    If you want to be politically correct, use the term CANNABIS. you can say weed too. Marijuana is technically derogatory and so is pot.

    but saying pif or chronic makes you look like an fool smoking just to get dumb and fit in to the hiphop culture - the exact kinds of people the govt doesn't want smoking.

  • ||

    Why is "pot" derogatory? Seriously, I've never heard that before. I always thought it was called pot because you could grow it in one.

  • ||

    @Yoshi: who the hell cares what you call it? Am I allowed to say "grass", or no?

    I think the tide of public opinion is heading in the right direction, and the governments at the state and federal levels will slowly follow that lead, but it will take a while.

    As others have noted, many powerful people have a high interest in maintaining the status quo. Hell, the drug testing (aka weed testing) industry alone is lobbying like hell against it. Not to mention pharmaceutical companies, drug war officials, corrections officials, etc. It'll take a long time to dismantle all that.

  • ||

    The drug testing industry would still have a prominent role if libertarians were in charge. A clean system could be condition of employment. That would require testing. If it is legalized without a libertarian government, no way anyone makes you take a drug test to work. Not that I'd favor that, but just saying.

  • ||

    A non-intoxicated system should be a condition of employment, yes. But when people say "clean" they often mean free of THC metabloites, which as we all know can stay in the urine for over a month. The presence of those metabloites has nothing to do with level of intoxication, and if they tie back to a decriminalized substance they should not be grounds for employment refusal or termination.

    A blood test, which actually measures active THC blood levels, makes much more sense. That would put it on even grounds with alcohol testing. It's a problem to be stoned at work, yes; but it is not a problem to smoke friday night when you get home. Just like drinking.

  • ||

  • robc||

    they should not be grounds for employment refusal or termination.

    At will employment.

    Other than the big few (which wouldnt exist in libertopia), I can fire my employees for any or no reason.

  • ||

    @robc: Yeah, I mean I get what you are saying. I would think an employer firing for no reason wouldn't be worth working for. Actually come to think of it, working sucks in general.

  • ||

    I think legalizing marijuana is a good idea. The old fogeys and politicians that think it's such a terrible idea aren't seeing the big picture. This would help boost the economy and keep innocent people out of jail.

  • Jonathon||

    there would be less crime, happier people, more jail space, a huge boost in tax made available to the state, and more police officers to deal with real crime, if marijuana was legalized. The bottom line is this, prohibition doesn't work, were wasting our own tax dollars trying to stop something that is only growing among our nations people because its what the "people " want, and all for what, the drug is the most used drug in the world, and people are doing it everywhere while it is illegal, so I ask you this, why have we not legalized it yet? Now that is the real question, and there is a dirty truth to it somewhere in the realm of the politician. The White House says what?????

  • Bill Tellman||

    our country is broke, and we are spending how much of our own tax dollars each year to unsuccessfully stop people from smoking marijuana? HOW STUPID ARE WE AS A COUNTRY? When will our government decide to be honest, and do the right thing? It seriously is stupid not to legalize it. Were putting people in jail for nothing, and that costs a lot of money, and ruins lives of our own people, yet we are supposed to be the role model of all countries? Please, the USA has its head up its own you know what.

  • Anonomus||

    Why is it illegal in the first place while alcohol and cigarettes are legal, I don't use any of them but that doesn't make any sense to me? How is that right? Am I the only one who doesn't get it? If its because we want to send a certain message to our children, then shouldn't we be doing all things equally, so there is no gray area on the matter? It seems like we are trying to force people to restrict our own judgment, where do you draw the line. So were not worried about all the unhealthy things that are promoted and sold to our kids like alcohol, cigarettes, fast food, guns, fast cars, motorcycles, ect. that can hurt our children, unless its marijuana which has less impact than just alcohol alone, how does this make sense! Anybody, how is this fair?

  • Cindy Maycock||

    Its our body, its our choice, plain and simple. I wish we could have a country wide vote for once and all, it would be legal for sure.

  • ||

    @Cindy: I'm not so sure about this. While this article points out a positive trend, it is still showing support for legalization at around 40%. There are so, so many people out there who are brainwashed by the propaganda, particularly parents. They feel strongly about the safety and innocence of their children (which is reasonable), and so succumb to any and all scare tactics involving drugs, sex, video games, whatever (which is unreasonable).

  • ||

    It's time to open up the eyes of America. Yes, the government has no problem selling us alcohol, a substance known to kill people, cripple people, and leave people with nothing but a habit. Kids drinking themselves to death. Adults drinking themselves to death. Tobacco being sold with a stamp of the package reassuring you that you will get cancer. This is our government people. Why is the idea of marijuana being legalized such a big question? It's time to admit it...marijuana is not dangerous. It's not addictive (unless you have an addictive personality)..there are no side effects (minus hunger and red eyes, WOW). I'm not saying pass out an ounce to young kids, give it an age limit just like drinking. Keep it listed under the DWI laws. Just legalize it and regulate it. Tax it for all we care it's going to help the economy. How many more people have to lose their jobs,houses,families, and everything they own before we see how much good the legalization of marijuana can bring to this country?

  • ||

    So sad that there are those still today that compare pot with heroin, cocaine, meth and alcohol....maybe the REAL problem is the old-world prudes still spewing their useless opinions in public.

    Since I started smoking pot I earned a BS in Computer Science and purchased a home...and I still have both eyes and all my fingers and toes.

  • oat willie||

    "Since I started smoking pot I earned a BS in Computer Science and purchased a home...and I still have both eyes and all my fingers and toes."

    I didn't start responsibly using cannabis until after I entered college and the Army Reserves. I was 20 years old.

    I have a BA in Geography, an MS in Environmental Studies and my own consulting business. Thank you cannabis, for helping me to think outside of the corporate cube maze!

  • ||

    Hey it helps you deal with the corporate cube maze too, believe me. I've been smoking for years now, despite the drug testing. I've passed 4 of my 4 tests, and so far have evaded the notice of my corporate overlords.

  • Anthony Thomas||

    Legalize and tax it. Why spend money trying to control it when you can make money instead? And again, you never hear of someone beeing shot in Colombia for stumbling across a coffee plantation do you?

  • ||

    I think it would be crazy to legalize drugs like meth, cocaine and heroin, but we lost the war on marijuana a long time ago and all we are doing trying in vain to keep up the ban is wasting a fortune and enriching organized crime to the tune of billions of dollars a year. We're doing more harm than good trying to keep up the ban.

    Americans consume more marijuana than all other illegal drugs combined. According to the government surveys more than 100 million Americans have tried it. More than half of all American adults under 60 have tried it. It is almost as easy to get as beer already and in most cases it is probably cheaper on a per use basis than beer. Despite the best efforts of government, they can't make it hard to find and they can't make it so expensive that many will not be able to afford it.

    We should have regulated the production and sales of marijuana a long time ago. With all the trouble brewing on our southern border it makes more sense than ever to legalize. The ONDCP estimated recently that Mexican drug cartels gross about $13.8 billion dollars a year on drugs bound for the U.S., with about $8.6 billion, about 62%, of that coming from marijuana alone. Cocaine was the second most popular drug. They gross about $3.9 billion from that, but they are only the middlemen for cocaine which must first be purchased and smuggled from South America before they smuggle it into this country. Marijuana is their cash cow. If we take the marijuana industry from them they will lose most of their income. They'll get smaller and become less powerful and less of a threat, and they will be easier to contain. The black market for drugs will get much smaller and easier to contain because it is mostly just a black market for marijuana. We should have done this a long time ago.

  • ||

    marijuana has been proven by numerous studies to be virtually harmless. it doesnt kill brain cells, cause infertility, or birth defects. the only thing it does cause is loss of lung capacity and the other side effects of breathing in smoke, not even close to the damage cigarettes cause, but more similar to tobacco, which last time i checked is uh...legal? street tests showed that it doesnt inhibit driving "efficiency" if you want to call it that, it actually made most drivers more careful since they were aware of there condition, unlike alcohol, which by the way, around 60% or more of drivers in fatal accidents had alcohol in there system, 15% has marijuana, and 35% had both. so clearly there should be no debate about whether it should be legalized especially if alcohol already is, with the right limits and regulations it will benefit far more than it will harm. also, if this PLANT is legalized, others wont have a need to do crack, cocaine, or heroin, since they have something they can do that wont get them put in jail and handed a heavy fine. so uh...why was this illegal in the first place again? oh ya, people (government mostly) exaggerating and blowing the worst possible doses in ANIMALS (monkeys and mice) and saying the same will happen to us. which has been proven wrong anyway.

  • jtuf||

    Good news in NJ! The "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" passed the state Senate on Monday. I'm not sure it's status in the state Assembly.

  • jtuf||

    tdenison, I have a slight correction. Marijuana can disrupt the blood-testi barrior, leading to a temporary reduction in sperm count. Of course, one man's side effect is another man's indication. Some researchers investigated making a male birth control pill based on marijuana. Regardless of how the studies turn out. We can agree that using or not using marijuana should be an individual choice.

  • ||

    What is going to happen to the rest of our country when the Mexican drug cartel moves even further north than Arizona and spreads across our country like the plague? They have tortured, kidnapped,raped and killed so many Americans as it is and the problem does not seem to be slowing down despite recent efforts to rid them from our society.
    The amount of Mexicans jumping the fence to come her has decreased significantly since the decline of our economy so,if we leaglized marijuana they may have no reason to come here.

  • ||

    tdenison, I have to disagree when you say that the amount of coke heads and junkies would decrease if pot were legal. Coke and Herion are nothing like pot and I belive the amount of abusers of those drugs would remain the same.

  • ||

    Everyone should watch the Marijuana in America, the documentary is rather enlightening and makes me think that if California can pull it off, why not the trest of the US?

  • ||

    KC- actually, in other countries that have decriminalized cannabis, studies show that the use of other harder drugs has decreased.

    i know it seems like people who want to do heroine would still just want to do heroine, but basically the jump from weed to other drugs seems riskier to people when one is decriminalized and the others are illegal.

  • Louis Vuitton 1904 Monogram Be||

    Thanks for the headsup - I'll amend the article to remove the reference to UTF-16 being byte-compatible with ASCII. http://www.louisvuitton.be/lou.....-p-74.html

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement