A Slimmer Marijuana Majority?

Gallup finds that support for legalization has ticked down:

marijuana gallup

Gallup’s attempt to explain the decline:

Last year’s finding of 58% in favor was recorded as Colorado was preparing to become the first state to implement a law decriminalizing the use of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Although the law passed in November 2012, it did not go into effect until January 2014. Americans may have warmed some to proponents’ arguments in 2013 in the ongoing discussion around the Colorado law.

More recently, Colorado has been in the news over the sale of marijuana-infused edibles—everything from brownies to gummy bears—and the risk they pose to children, possibly sparking public concern. Also, a year ago, proponents in California were poised to launch a ballot initiative for 2014 to legalize marijuana in the Golden State, adding to the sense of momentum for legalization, but later decided to wait until 2016 for fear of losing at the polls, as they did in 2010. The relative lack of attention to new legalization initiatives throughout 2014 may have caused public support to subside.

This strikes me as plausible. It’s highly predictable that when a reform actually seems as if it will happen – as opposed to seeming like a great and new idea – there’s a natural “hey, wait a minute” reaction. Support for marriage equality dipped 5 percent in the Gallup poll in the wake of the first state to legalize it – Massachusetts – from 2004 – 2005. There was another dip in 2011, following another burst of progress. These things are not linear; a completely reasonable conservatism creeps in from time to time; what matters is if that conservatism marshals an actual argument that sticks; and, of course, the overall long-term direction and demographics of support.

What you also see here in the cannabis debate is exactly what we saw in California on marriage equality – a moment when a reform seems imminent and when the opponents pay their final card.

That card is usually children, and the potential harm to them if society changes. That’s what led to Prop 8’s success at the polls in 2008. But so far, we’ve seen no such failure in the cannabis initiatives so far.

Sullum’s two cents:

Gallup adds that “as long as support hovers around the 50% mark, it will be difficult for proponents to promote legalization beyond the more Democratic and liberal-oriented states.” I’m not sure about that, since 55 percent of Colorado voters approved legalization in 2012, when Gallup put national support at 50 percent, and 52 percent of Alaskans went for legalization on Tuesday. Colorado and Alaska are purple and red, respectively, so I don’t think they qualify as “the more Democratic and liberal-oriented states,” although both have libertarian streaks.

I actually think that weed unites red and blue America in ways both sides are reluctant to admit. But never mind. No one knows what you do in the polling booth.