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Support for Marijuana Legalization is Growing in America

Submitted by smorgan on

A new CBS/NYT poll finds that 41% of Americans agree that marijuana use should be legalized. While legalization still fails to garner majority support, it’s clear that we’re headed in the right direction. Notice that only 27% supported legalization in 1979:

Like 30 years ago, a majority of Americans do not think the use of marijuana should be made legal, but the percentage that thinks it should be has grown. Now, 41% of Americans support legalizing marijuana use, compared to just 27% who felt that way in 1979.


Now /1979
Yes 41% 27%
No  52% 69%

There is a huge generation gap on this issue. More adults under 45 (49%) approve of legalizing marijuana use than oppose (45%), while just 31% of adults over age 45 approve of it; six in 10 are opposed.  

The generation gap is particularly encouraging, confirming a popular theory among reformers that if we simply wait not-so-patiently, we’ll eventually win when our opposition literally drops dead.

These numbers reveal that we’re well within striking distance of achieving majority support for legalization. Moreover, we’re comfortably within the range in which meaningful reform to our marijuana laws will produce significant and vocal approval from the public. If there was ever a time when our political climate was fatally non-receptive to this idea, we have moved beyond that.

Keep in mind that the 41% result was arrived at without any particular political context. That’s just the number of people who generally walk around believing that marijuana should be legal. It’s possible to build that number significantly when the question is framed around an actual policy proposal, such as in Massachusetts where 65% of voters supported decriminalization. Because our arguments are strong, we benefit from the debate.

Legalization initiatives were unsuccessful in Nevada and Colorado in 2004, but I’d like to think that in the current change-focused political climate, it’s quite possible that similar measures would be victorious. For one thing, the departure of drug czar John Walters means we’re unlikely to face the same vicious opposition we’ve become accustomed to, as I simply do not envision Obama’s White House undertaking a regional propaganda scare-tour the next time we try something big.

The fact is that we’re moving in exactly the right direction, though not nearly as fast as any of us would prefer. We must be patient, so long as our patience doesn’t take the form of inaction. We’re entering a period of remarkable political opportunity for our cause.

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