Is Marijuana Legalization More Like Gay Marriage or Abortion?



"In less than a decade, public opinion has shifted dramatically toward support for the legalization of marijuana. The temptation is to conclude that the trend in favor of marijuana legalization is similar to the flow of opinion in favor of same-sex marriage, but not all hot-button social issues are created equal ... Opinion is changing, but is there a durable majority for legalization?" ask the Brookings Institution's E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William A Galston in a May 29 infographic on "The New Politics of Marijuana Legalization." The answer is to be determined, but the lesson is that marijuana law reforms must bring perceived net benefits, or there will be a Reagan Era-style backlash that'll take us back to square one.

The evidence:


- support for cannabis already peaked once in the '70s before the "Greatest Generation" led a backlash that culminated with the Just Say No '80s.

- A third of Americans believe using cannabis is "morally wrong".

- 51 percent of Americans "would feel uncomfortable in the presence of people using marijuana".

- And there's a major age and gender gap that's troubling — 64 percent of 18-to 29-year-olds support ending the drug war, versus 67 percent of those 65 and older that want to keep arresting 800,000 Americans a year for weed.

-About 57 percent of women are "made uncomfortable by marijuana use", and 36 percent of women say using pot is morally wrong.

"The attitudes of Americans with ambivalent views will be shaped by whether the various experiments with legalization, decriminalization and medical marijuana are deemed successes or failures. This, in turn, will determine whether the strong support for legalization among younger Americans endures and creates a new majority."

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