Majority Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana- Is Pot The Next Gay Marriage?

by
Owen Poindexter
For the first time, a national Pew poll showed that a majority of Americans support full legalization of marijuana. Now 52% of the country supports legalization while 45% oppose. Support has jumped an incredible 11% in the last three years.
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A majortiy of Americans now think marijuana should be legal, according to a Pew poll. PHOTO: Bokske, CC license
 
For the first time, a national Pew poll showed that a majority of Americans support full legalization of marijuana. Marijuana legalization has steadily gained support among all groups over the last two decades, and now 52% of the country supports legalization while 45% oppose. Support has jumped an incredible 11% in the last three years.
 
The Next Gay Marriage?

Marijuana may be the next gay marriage: an issue that sees a sea change in popular opinion leading to a wave of political support. All but 4 Democratic senators (and they might not hold out for much longer) support marriage equality, and marijuana legalization could be the next issue to create a domino effect of support among Democrats, with some Republicans chipping in their support (2 GOP Senators, Rob Portman and Mark Kirk, are pro-gay marriage). Like gay marriage, marijuana legalization probably needs a few more states to legalize the drug for any use (not just medical) before we see a similar wave of federal support. Indeed, there are many state legislators who support decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana but only a smattering of federal lawmakers (decriminalizing is sort of the civil unions of marijuana: a middle ground that eventually becomes pointless).
 
Support At All-Time High in Every Demographic
 
But back to the Pew poll. The most notable aspect of Pew's findings is that support for legalizing pot has increased among every demographic: millenials, gen x-ers, boomers, silents (born before 1945), men, women, democrats, republicans, independents, whites, blacks and hispanics have ALL increased in support over the three years.
 
Within those groups, certain trends emerge: men (57%) support more than women (48%), younger people support more than their elders, though boomers (53%) have all but caught up to gen x-ers (55%), while a strong majority of 18-29 year olds support (64%) and people 65 and over are the final holdout at 33%. There is a political divide, one we will start to see more and more among elected officials: Democrats (59%) and Independents (60%) drive the overall majority, while Republicans are still wary (37%), but Republicans have increased from 24% just 3 years ago. Delving further, we see another split within each party. Liberal Democrats (73%) outpace their moderate counterparts (52%), but the larger split is among Republicans, where the moderate GOP has leaped 17% in the past three years, all the way up to 53%, while far-right conservatives linger at 29% support (up from 20% in 2010). Whites (52%), Blacks (56%) and Hispanics (51%) all show majority support.
 
A Tipping Point

It's clear that support for marijuana legalization has hit a tipping point, and we are observing a cultural shift in real time. It's possible that support will swing back, but it has been steadily rising since the 70s, and marijuana legalization has a simple, potent argument: give a single reason that marijuana should be illegal that doesn't apply as much or more to alcohol, nicotine or coffee.

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