Gallup polled Americans on marijuana and found that “for the first time, a clear majority of Americans (58%) say the drug should be legalized”:
The Dish has waged many campaigns over the years, from ending torture to tackling the long-term debt, but I’m particularly proud of championing two social reforms: the legalization of marijuana and civil marriage for gay couples. They appear very different, but both are about bringing outlaws into the civil mainstream. Being gay went from being a crime to being a citizen in my lifetime. Now, smoking or vaping the harmless, ubiquitous drug, marijuana, is beginning to be thought of as indistinguishable from drinking the much more harmful, ubiquitous drug, alcohol.
What the two reforms also have in common, in my view, is adjusting our social norms to empirical reality. It was always absurd to think of gay people as somehow outside the norms of love, commitment and family. It is empirically insane to treat pot as having no conceivable medical use and classified in the most dangerous category there is. And yet our government proved itself incapable of adjusting to reality on both blindingly obvious questions, until the people long moved past it.
Well, Tocqueville is proven right again, isn’t he?
If anything the public opinion swing on marijuana legalization seems a bit more dramatic … suggesting that policy change could come even faster. Splits based on partisanship are almost the same in both cases — Democrats come in at 65 percent in favor marijuana legalization, 69 percent in favor of gay marriage, while Republican support is at 35 percent (marijuana) and 26 percent (gay marriage) — and in both cases, there is overwhelming support among 18-29 year olds, 67 percent of whom believe marijuana should be legal and 70 percent of whom think gay marriage should be legal.
More important: on this issue as with marriage equality, Independents are much closer to Democrats than Republicans, with 62 percent support. The GOP is now effectively the oldest generations’ angry veto of the younger generations’ demography, values and politics. Jacob Sullum looks at other recent polling:
Gallup’s survey asks, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” That leaves open the question of whether commercial production and distribution should be legal as well (as in Colorado and Washington). But other national polls that go beyond marijuana consumption also have found majority support for legalization.
In a Reason-Rupe survey last January, for example, 53 percent of respondents said “the government should treat marijuana the same as alcohol.” And last month a Public Policy Polling survey in Texas found that 58 percent of respondents either “somewhat” or “strongly” supported “changing Texas law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, where stores would be licensed to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older.” The latter finding was especially striking given the state’s conservative reputation.
And Josh Barro puts support for marijuana legalization in perspective:
More Americans want to legalize marijuana than think President Obama is doing a good job (44%), want to keep or expand Obamacare (38%), favored attacking Syria (36%), support a 20-cent gas tax increase to pay for infrastructure (29%), or like the Republican Party (28%). And legal marijuana has more than five times as many supporters as Congress does (11%).
The Obama administration is following behind, gingerly. Perhaps it’s because this president was such a hard-core stoner in his youth that he feels a little constrained in even discussing the subject. But his administration could easily revisit the – I repeat – insane classification of marijuana as the most dangerous kind of drug there is. What are they waiting for?