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The New Politics of Marijuana Legalization

The New Politics of Marijuana Legalization Opinion is changing, but is there a durable majority for legalization? Sentiment in favor of legalization has increased by 20 points in just over a decade. Between the last year of the Bush administration and the beginning of Barack Obama's second term, As the counterculture spread during the 1970s, support for legalization roughly doubled, peaking in 40 50% support for legalization rose from 35 to 52%. 1978. In a backlash to the counterculture, support bottomed out near the end of 30 the Reagan administration. 20 10 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2013 BUT How much of this change is durable? Will opinions on marijuana follow the path of attitudes on... OR GAY MARRIAGE, where generational ABORTION, where young adults are not significantly more pro-choice than their parents, and generational trends indicate continuing differences are so stark and support among the young so strong that a long-term majority for legalization seems inevitable? division? Polling data show the following: There is considerable ambivalence on the issue. Support for marijuana legalization is much less driven by moral conviction, and much more by the belief that it is not a moral issue at all: 32% 12% 50% say marijuana use is morally wrong say marijuana use is morally acceptable say marijuana use is not a moral issue say that they would feel uncomfortable in say that government efforts to enforce 72% marijuana laws cost more than they are worth, but 51% the presence of people using marijuana. A significant minority favor legalization, not because they think that smoking marijuana is an affirmative good, but because they doubt the ability of law to enforce a prohibition against it. E.J. Dionne and William Galston A big age gap and an important gender gap. Age is one of the most important variables determining attitudes toward legalization: Support for legalization, among americans aged... 18-29 30-49 50-64 65+ 64 55% 53% 33% There are also substantial differences between men and women: Ở Men O Women Support legalization Say use is morally wrong Are made uncomfortable by marijuana use 57 48 57 44 36* 29 Marijuana's political future. Advocates of legalization have to overcome a basic attitude: that marijuana use itself is not seen as a positive good. This might seem obvious, but it is a central aspect of the structure of public opinion on the question. Those who support legalization do so for a variety of reasons: that enforcement of marijuana laws constitutes a waste of public resources; that taxing legalized marijuana might provide a new source of public revenue; that enforcement of existing laws is spotty and unfair. 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. E.J. Dionne and William Galston B Governance Studies at BROOKINGS

The New Politics of Marijuana Legalization

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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 simi...

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