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Free Minds & Free Markets

Smoking Pot and Tying the Knot

Familiarity is breeding tolerance of marijuana and gay marriage.

No matter how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the two gay marriage cases it will hear this spring, polling data suggest it is only a matter of time before legal recognition of same-sex unions is the norm throughout the country. Something similar is happening with marijuana, which became legal in Colorado and Washington in December. With both pot and gay marriage, familiarity is breeding tolerance.

The Supreme Court cases deal with popular reactions against gay marriage: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that prohibited federal recognition of state-licensed gay marriages, and Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that amended California’s constitution to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. But something interesting happened after those measures passed: Surveys now indicate that most Americans support gay marriage.

The turnaround was remarkably fast. A 1996 Gallup poll found that 27 percent of Americans thought same-sex marriages should be “recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages”; by 2011 that number had nearly doubled. Recent surveys by ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN also put support for gay marriage above 50 percent.

Striking generational differences mean these numbers will continue to rise. In a November CBS News poll, 72 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds supported gay marriage, compared to 53 percent of 30-to-44-year-olds, 44 percent of 45-to-64-year-olds, and 33 percent of respondents who were 65 or older. 

The consequences of these changing attitudes could be seen in November’s election results. For the first time ever, gay marriage was legalized by popular referendum—not in one state but in three: Maine, Maryland, and Washington. Voters in a fourth state, Minnesota, rejected an initiative that would have amended the state constitution to prohibit gay marriage (on top of a statutory ban).

On the same day, voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures aimed at legalizing the cultivation, possession, and sale of marijuana for recreational use. The initiatives won by surprisingly healthy margins of about 10 points in both states, in contrast with a California legalization measure that lost by seven points in 2010.

Nationwide support for marijuana legalization, like nationwide support for gay marriage, has increased dramatically, although not quite as swiftly, rising from 12 percent in a 1969 Gallup poll to a record 50 percent last year. While support for legalization dipped a bit during the anti-pot backlash of the Just Say No era, it began rising again in the 1990s. In December, Public Policy Polling put it at 58 percent, the highest level ever recorded.

With pot as with gay marriage, there are clear age-related differences, reflecting different levels of experience with marijuana. In the CBS News survey, support for legalization was 54 percent among 18-to-29-year-olds, 53 percent among 30-to-44-year-olds, 46 percent among 45-to-64-year-olds, and 30 percent among respondents of retirement age.

Just as an individual’s attitude toward gay people depends to a large extent on how many he knows (or, more to the point, realizes he knows), his attitude toward pot smokers (in particular, his opinion about whether they should be treated like criminals) is apt to be influenced by his personal experience with them. Americans younger than 65, even if they have never smoked pot, probably know people who have, and that kind of firsthand knowledge provides an important reality check on the government’s anti-pot propaganda.

Another clear pattern in both of these areas: Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to oppose legalizing marijuana and gay marriage. Yet Republicans are also more likely to oppose federal interference with state policy choices. In light of DOMA’s disregard for state marriage laws and the Obama administration’s threats to prevent Colorado and Washington from allowing marijuana sales, now is put-up-or-shut-up time for the GOP’s avowed federalists.  

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  • sarcasmic||

    For the first time ever, gay marriage was legalized...

    I didn't know it was illegal. Glad to hear all the people in prison for illegal marriage will be set free.

  • SIV||

    reason will not rest until all gay marriage arrests and convictions are expunged from their records.

  • Zeb||

    I suppose it would have been illegal for a Justice of the Peace to sign a marriage license for two same sex people where there was no legal same sex marriage.

  • Zeb||

    From time to time, the same word can be used to mean slightly different things in different contexts.

  • SIV||

    With pot as with gay marriage, there are clear age-related differences, reflecting different levels of experience with marijuana. In the CBS News survey, support for legalization was 54 percent among 18-to-29-year-olds, 53 percent among 30-to-44-year-olds, 46 percent among 45-to-64-year-olds, and 30 percent among respondents of retirement age.

    Wouldn't the 45-64-y-o demographic have the most experience with marijuana? Yet they lag the younger demographics in support for legalization.

  • Josua||

    I disapprove of both gay marriage and dope smoking, but I oppose government regulation of either.

  • Jordan||

    COSMOTARIANZZZ!!1

    /SIV

  • SIV||

    Jordan approves of both gay marriage and dope smoking, and heartily supports government regulation of both.

  • Jordan||

    Yes, I support government regulation of both over banning them.

  • 34lbs||

    I support regulation in regards to same sex marriage and marijuana as well... regulating governments control over them... SNAP what did i win!!?

  • CosmoBro||

    Paleos disgust me.

  • ||

    I oppose government regulation of marriage in general.

  • ||

    Wouldn't the 45-64-y-o demographic have the most experience with marijuana? Yet they lag the younger demographics in support for legalization.

    I doubt it. There are more people who smoke weed today, than there were back when I was a teenager, when dinosaurs were still walking around. It's just that they are not as open about it because they like their dogs.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    It's just that they are not as open about it because they like their dogs.

    With age comes wisdom?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Nah, it's not even that. If pot were legalized, the Baby Boomers would lose their "rebel cool" from having smoked it. Nothing matters more to Baby Boomers than "oool", except for eternal youth. They're like vampires in that way.

  • Zeb||

    It's not even that. Most boomers never smoked pot. And half of those that did decided when they had kids that it would be easier to have it stay illegal than to have to honestly talk to their kids about it.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    Wouldn't the 45-64-y-o demographic have the most experience with marijuana? Yet they lag the younger demographics in support for legalization.

    Isn't this the same age group that Obama falls into? He used to support pot smoking and has since changed his tune.

  • Almanian!||

    You libertarians are PUSSIES for talking about teh potz when there are other things that Ann Coulter would rather you write about!

    /Coulter

  • ||

    Be careful, there's an 80% chance that Coulter has a higher testosterone level than you do. She will come over to your house and beat you up.

    But I bet giraffes find her very sexy.

  • Matrix||

    Skeletons sure do

  • 34lbs||

    Fucking hot ass Ann Coulter pic...
    http://www.meglyman.com/galler.....iraffe.jpg

  • NeonCat||

    And if that knot was made with hemp rope you could smoke that, too.

  • 34lbs||

    Lol, me and my mates tried to order some hemp rope in Melbourne (Downunderland).. couldn't get... ;(

  • desosa||

    my best friend's sister got paid $18490 past week. she has been working on the computer and moved in a $584400 home. All she did was get fortunate and try the clues shown on this link and go to tech tab.
    WOW92.COM

  • rabid penguin||

    Tell me more about your sister's friend. I would like very much to get fortunate and try her clues.

  • WinstonSmith714||

    getting pot legalized takes time, a generation or two............

    getting a marriage licence for two people of the same sex takes time, a generation or two............

    getting guns off the streets takes time, a generation or two............

  • HenryC||

    I see no particular reason for gay marriage, civil unions with similar legal benefits are what should happen. Marriage has historically been between an man an a woman. If you leave out the word marriage a lot of the opposition will disappear. Marriage is basically a religious ceremony that governments have adjusted laws to. Why stir up strife when it is totally unnecessary.
    On the issue of pot, prohibition has always been stupid. Tax it at a rate that will solve the health and economic problems it causes. It would make huge differences in the stability in much of South and Central America. Large portions of society would stay out of jail. The War on Drugs is idiotic.

  • CosmoBro||

    You're a moron. YOU may see no need for same-sex marriage, but gay folks do. Civil Unions relegate gays to second class citizens. Get gov't out of it, let private citizens handle it themselves and call it whatever the fuck they want. As for the weed...tax it? Fuck you. Sin taxes are blatantly unlibertarian.

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