Yesterday, Gallup reported that in its latest poll, support for legalization of marijuana has for the first time cracked 50 percent:
Why has this happened? I'd point to a few reasons. First, we've had a fairly active debate about medical use of marijuana for some time, and that debate has been soundly won by the pro-legalization side, with as much as three-quarters of the public favoring legalization for medical purposes. It may well be that when poll respondents get asked "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal?", many are thinking of medical marijuana. Second, the decline in crime rates may make cracking down on anybody who thinks about lighting up seem like a waste of time. But the most important factor, I'd be willing to bet, is the aging of the population. As Gallup shows, support for legalization is at 62 percent among adults under 30, 56 percent among those aged 30 to 49, 49 percent among those aged 50 to 64, but only 31 percent among those over 65. People who grew up before the 1960s not only have far less experience with marijuana themselves, they are much less likely to know anyone who did it, and so they are more likely to perceive it as a dangerous drug that ruins the lives of all who come in contact with it.
That does mean that the prospects for legalization will go up as time passes. But it's still going to be a long while before significant numbers of politicians are willing to come out and advocate it.
And note that unlike responsible mainstream journalists who cannot resist the siren call of a Grateful Dead reference, I am continuing my long-standing moratorium on stoner jokes when writing about this issue, tempting though it might be.
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