CBS poll: Majority favors marijuana legalization for first time

posted at 3:31 pm on January 23, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, the White House rushed to clarify Barack Obama’s position on marijuana after the publication of his comments in the New Yorker, insisting that nothing has changed on his opposition to legalization. To which I answered: YetA couple of more polls like this from CBS News, and we’re going to start actually hearing the E word — evolving:

For the first time since the CBS News Poll began asking the question, a slight majority of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana use.

Fifty-one percent say they think the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 44 percent do not.  Public opinion on this issue has changed dramatically over the past few years:  in October 2011 a slight majority (51 percent) opposed making marijuana use legal, and as recently as April 2013 public opinion was divided on this issue (45 percent supported, 45 percent opposed). Interestingly, in July 1979, when CBS News first asked the question, 69 percent thought marijuana use should not be made legal and only 27 percent thought it should be made legal.

Approval, or perhaps more accurately tolerance, is rising in all demographics. Middle-aged Americans now favor it by a majority, although seniors are still resisting the Yes We Cannabis evolution. Even there, though, approval has gone up six points from April 2013. Among conservatives, only 36% approve, but that’s still eleven points better in only nine months. Overall approval has also vaulted by eleven points in just twenty-seven months, so this is a strong trend and not just a margin-of-error shift.

Interestingly, federalism remains consistent on this issue. Respondents favor state government control over regulating marijuana use by 62/35, almost identical to September 2012′s 62/32.

The same-sex-marriage-esque evolution this year at the White House is inevitable, for two reasons. One is just that legalization is becoming more popular, and Colorado’s experiment legitimizes the effort. But the other is ObamaCare. As the costs have become apparent to the younger voters getting soaked on premiums to subsidize older consumers, that demographic has become disenchanted with Obama — even after Obama’s evolution on same-sex marriage. Income inequality is going to put them to sleep rather than excite them back to the polls for the midterms. The only trick left in the book to distract them from the disaster of ObamaCare is legal weed — and it’s popular enough that some Republicans will probably get on the bandwagon to negate Democrats’ attempt to bogart the issue entirely for themselves.

So get ready, because the Obama evolution on pot is coming, probably timed for when next year’s premium prices and employer-mandate market disruptions occur. That’s not to say that there won’t be resistance on the substance of the issue, and my Fiscal Times colleague Liz Peek outlines the counter argument:

Polling has shown the public – even older voters who are traditionally more conservative   – supportive of legalizing pot. Many of our traditional culture warriors, like those who might oppose violence in video games, for instance, or who defend traditional marriage, have drifted Libertarian. The voices in the country advocating for small government now want to keep the feds out of their bedroom, out of their pocketbook and out of their lives.  So, the timing is auspicious for the pro-pot group.

But – the public (like Mr. Obama apparently) is not armed with the facts.  First and foremost, pot has changed since the president’s “choom gang” days. A study at the University of Mississippi shows the average potency (THC content) of marijuana confiscated by the government in 1992 was about 3 percent.  By 2009, the average potency was about 11 percent, nearly 4 times higher.  That means the drug has more of an impact, and is more likely to lead to dependency.

Though those favoring legalization claim that no one becomes addicted to marijuana, studies indicate otherwise. A survey conducted by the Health and Human Services Department states that nearly 20 million Americans over the age of 12 in 2011 professed to have used pot in the prior month.  The report concluded that over 4 million people “met the diagnostic criteria for the abuse of or dependence on this drug” – more than are hooked on pain relievers, cocaine, or all other drugs combined. …

Thus, when Mr. Obama equates marijuana usage with smoking cigarettes, and says pot isless dangerous that alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer”, he is sending a terrible message.

Be sure to read it all, but in the end I doubt these issues will effectively counter the need for Obama to pander to the younger demographics and get them off the sidelines in 2014.


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When does the push for the legalization of Cocaine begin?

portlandon on January 23, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Obamacare will cover everybody’s doobies…

PatriotRider on January 23, 2014 at 3:39 PM

Food stamps, free healthcare, free housing, welfare, disability, free obama phones, unemployment checks for years, next up free pot…

What a great country…

PatriotRider on January 23, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Like the LIV’s aren’t dumb and zombified enough. God knows what the hell they will do in the voting booth…YIKES. There will be more moochers that like to sit on the couch with Pookie only now they can get stoned courtesy of their EBT cards.

Pathetic.

NJ Red on January 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Even the amoral slime pit Amsterdam has had enough. Yet here we are, about to go down their path.

Whatever. *walks up to the edge of a bottomless pit and holds out his hand for anyone who wants it* Let’s see how far down the rabbit hole goes, shall we?

BigGator5 on January 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill

Yup.

SAZMD on January 23, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Obamacare will cover everybody’s doobies…

PatriotRider on January 23, 2014 at 3:39 PM

Stoned enough to not give a damn might be helpful …

M240H on January 23, 2014 at 3:45 PM

The only trick left in the book to distract them from the disaster of ObamaCare is legal weed — and it’s popular enough that some Republicans will probably get on the bandwagon to negate Democrats’ attempt to bogart the issue entirely for themselves.

“Bogart the issue.” That’s funny, Ed. I guess we’re all members of the Choom Gang now.

TarheelBen on January 23, 2014 at 3:46 PM

Well good. Next on this list, ALL drugs. Look, it’s time we agree that drugs are bad, but the “cure,” a brutal and costly and public union employee laden police state… is worse than the disease.

But actually the police state isn’t even a cure at all. Evidence suggest that the drug war actually increases drug abuse. Really. Check out this Business Insider excerpt:

On July 1st, 2001, Portugal decriminalized every imaginable drug, from marijuana, to cocaine, to heroin. Some thought Lisbon would become a drug tourist haven, others predicted usage rates among youths to surge.

Eleven years later, it turns out they were both wrong.

Over a decade has passed since Portugal changed its philosophy from labeling drug users as criminals to labeling them as people affected by a disease. This time lapse has allowed statistics to develop and in time, has made Portugal an example to follow.

The result: a dramatic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following ten years. Portugal’s drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states, according to the same report.

One more outcome: a lot less sick people. Drug related diseases including STDs and overdoses have been reduced even more than usage rates, which experts believe is the result of the government offering treatment with no threat of legal ramifications to addicts.

Drug use and especially abuse was reduced by decriminalization. The drug war, then, is completely non-sensical, or irrational. Because it increases drug use! There’s a solid line of reasoning for why there is this counter-intuitive outcome. I got to be brief, but to understand it yourself, first you can check out youtube videos on Portugal, and the Business Insider article from which the above excerpt was taken has many links supporting the points they make. Also good: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/07/05/ten-years-after-decriminalization-drug-abuse-down-by-half-in-portugal/

anotherJoe on January 23, 2014 at 3:51 PM

I’m imagining all the stoners sitting at home, lighting up, as the pollsters call. They’re probably hoping mom hurries home from work to make them some munchies.

littleguy on January 23, 2014 at 3:53 PM

I wish they would just legalize it so everyone would shut up about it.

KBird on January 23, 2014 at 3:56 PM

A study at the University of Mississippi shows the average potency (THC content) of marijuana confiscated by the government in 1992 was about 3 percent. By 2009, the average potency was about 11 percent, nearly 4 times higher. That means the drug has more of an impact, and is more likely to lead to dependency.

What a load of rubbish. First of all, no one becomes “dependent” on marijuana. Total fiction.

Secondly, this whole “ pot has changed since the president’s .. days” argument is fallacious. It’s the same drug. There was good and bad weed back then, and there’s good and bad weed now. Just like there’s good and bad beer. Weed is weed. Stoned is stoned. The “this is a different drug” argument is an intellectually dishonest attempt to scare older Americans, and to invalidate their experiences smoking marijuana. “Your experiences don’t count.”

It’s the same damn drug. It’s not even a drug. It’s a plant.

I’m not advocating pot smoking, and whatever anyone thinks about legalization is up to them. But if one can’t come up with an honest argument, no matter what the topic is, that doesn’t say much for one’s side of the debate.

WhatSlushfund on January 23, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Whatslush just snatched all the prohibitionists wigs, not an edge left in sight.

libfreeordie on January 23, 2014 at 4:03 PM

It’s long past time for the federal government to decriminalize MJ. Obama doesn’t have to take a stand one way or the other, just get out of the way and let the states decide.

Tangentially, I think even people who oppose MJ should agree that it was wrong to make President George Washington’s occupation illegal and turn him into a post-facto criminal. Hemp doesn’t have any psychoactive properties like MJ. The only reason Hemp was made illegal was because lobbyists for the cotton industry and chemical industries, and perhaps other hemp competitors, wanted to eliminate their competition. Hemp is a stronger, more durable fiber than cotton, and at the time hemp was made illegal it was stronger than the fibers being created by chemical industry.

It’s time to exonerate George Washington and legalize hemp production.

FloatingRock on January 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Great, now our lungs are suffering another another assault. If choomer in cheif sanctions it do we get an extra ACA pass to the doctor later in life? Or do we wait on a death panel to decide?

jake49 on January 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

When does the push for the legalization of Cocaine begin?
portlandon on January 23, 2014 at 3:38 PM

So, if boxing’s legal it’s only logical that murder should be too.

Akzed on January 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

YIKES. There will be more moochers that like to sit on the couch with Pookie only now they can get stoned courtesy of their EBT cards. Pathetic. NJ Red on January 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM

You mean they’ll be buying beer with them?

Wow. That shouldn’t be allowed.

Akzed on January 23, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Even the amoral slime pit Amsterdam has had enough. Yet here we are, about to go down their path. BigGator5 on January 23, 2014 at 3:43 PM

So prostitution is a synonym for pot? In Dutch or what? Huh?

Were you just hoping that no one would follow your link?

Akzed on January 23, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Obama’s White House Drug Experts Contradict His Marijuana Remarks

Marijuana Myths & Facts: The Truth Behind 10 Popular Misconceptions”.

Myth #10 is “The government sends otherwise innocent people to prison for casual marijuana use.”

In fact, less than 1% of all drug incarcerations are for simple possession or use of marijuana. And those few tend to be plea-bargains for people who actually were dealers.

Mr. Obama’s own White House website contradicts his light-hearted claims about marijuana in other ways as well. Multiple pages are devoted to describing clear dangers of marijuana, including these excerpts:

Marijuana use is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and impaired cognitive and immune system functioning, among other negative effects.
Marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and problems with learning and memory.
Studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and schizophrenia.
Other research has shown marijuana smoke to contain carcinogens and to be an irritant to the lungs. Marijuana smoke, in fact, contains 50‐70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke.

But what about alcohol? Mr. Obama stated he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous that alcohol.

One trick used by pro-pot proponents seems to have worked with Obama. They adopt an extremely-narrow definition of marijuana’s dangers by discussing solely on whether it is “toxic,” meaning that high dosages become poisonous.

They choose that measure because alcohol poisoning causes tens of thousands of deaths each year but marijuana is not poisonous even in large doses.

Toxicity, however, has never been the sole measure of whether a substance is dangerous. Things need not be fatal to be harmful. Plus, things that are intoxicating and hallucinogenic can lead to fatal behavior without being poisonous.

Furthermore, the studies cited by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, regarding brain damage among regular adolescent pot smokers, has no parallel from alcohol. And making one dangerous drug legal is, of course, never a good reason to add another, or a third, or more.

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:10 PM

I’m from the Woodstock generation and partook like most at that time.Everyone I knew wanted legal weed.The weed of those times was decent for $10 an ounce.Got to Nam and the weed was way more potent at $2-3 a pound.I gave it up but the Woodstock generation is now running the country so I’m not surprised that it will be legal soon.There will be good as well as bad caused by it.Might as well get used to it.

docflash on January 23, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Prediction – once it sinks in that being pro-legalization is no longer a marginal position and won’t get one labeled a “pot head” – the polls are going to explode favoring legalization.

I’ll bet within 2 months 65% or higher will favor legalization and we will see a rush to do it in almost every state and federally.

This is one of those overtun window moments. Once most people are no longer scarred to admit to being in favor of marijuana legalization, it is going to take off.

Let’s face it, at least 75% of people over the age of 21 have either tried marijuana or know people who use it. So, nobody really believes this is a dangerous substance.

Monkeytoe on January 23, 2014 at 4:16 PM

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Those wily pro-pot advocates!

Here’s an idea: if you don’t like it, don’t touch it.

Akzed on January 23, 2014 at 4:18 PM

A study at the University of Mississippi shows the average potency (THC content) of marijuana confiscated by the government in 1992 was about 3 percent. By 2009, the average potency was about 11 percent, nearly 4 times higher. That means the drug has more of an impact, and is more likely to lead to dependency.

And whiskey has way more alcohol content than beer or wine. So? If you drink enough beer, you still become drunk and/or can still become an alcoholic.

And, by the way, once it’s legalized, it can be regulated, which makes your argument better suited to legalization, wherein THC content can be regulated as opposed to keeping it illegal, where THC content cannot be regulated.

Monkeytoe on January 23, 2014 at 4:20 PM

Legalize it all. Weed, heroin, cocaine, meth. Let them have it. If someone wants to shoot heroin until they OD, I say good riddance. My only issue is, they will want money for food because they won’t be able to hold down a steady job. They will want money for housing. They will want the rest of us to take care of their kids. They will want money for rehab if they ever decide to quit. They will want employment mandates, i.e. an employer has to hire them regardless of drug use. These people better be willing to accept the consequences of their decisions. Of course they won’t. Libfree will be here telling us that we need to take care of them, becuase it just isn’t humane to let crackheads live like crackheads.

JAGonzo on January 23, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Akzed on January 23, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Here’s an idea. Smoke all you want. Just stop whining and nagging about it and lying about the effects of chronic use.

Here’s another idea. Pay for your own medical care when those effects catch up with you.

Other than that… ‘party on, dude.’

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Akzed on January 23, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Oh, and you’ll note that I posted the article regarding the White House’s own drug experts remarks contradicting Obama’s remarks. I didn’t comment personally one way or the other until you made it personal.

As I said, I don’t care if you smoke it until you choke. Just stop pretending it doesn’t have any side effects and won’t cost the rest of society anything.

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:30 PM

the Woodstock generation is now running the country..

docflash on January 23, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Not sure about that. Obama’s only, what, 51? Bill Clinton had his day… 15 years ago. The Woodstock generation has come and gone, and they didn’t do squat as far legalizing pot or drugs. It’s the younger generation now that is saying… um, we don’t want police coming around and busting in to houses and private emails etc and hauling people away for what is a matter of personal choice, regardless of whether the nanny state determines its dangerous or not.

anotherJoe on January 23, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Does anyone here really need a law or the threat of the penalties imposed by the law to know the ill effects of narcotics abuse? Anyone?

Where are all the anti-nanny-staters?

Is there anyone here who doesn’t know it’s a good idea to put your seatbelt on and at the same time not know that seatbelt laws were written for the benefit of insurance companies, not you?

The drug war exists for sole benefit of the industries that profit by it. And the War on Drugs has claimed more lives by the creation of violent black markets and the funding of totalitarian revolutionaries around.the.globe than any of the drugs themselves ever did.

Stop the War on Drugs. Decriminalize all of it.

Or are you and your kin so moronic that need a law and the threat of jail to tell you dope is for dopes?

M240H on January 23, 2014 at 4:37 PM

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Eactly. We will not pay for your dentures after meth has rotted out all of your teeth. We will not pay for any medical care/treatment due to the blood borne pathogen you contracted from sharing needles. When drug addicts come crying for help, I WILL pay someone to tell them to go fvck themselves. This infuriates me to no end. People want their vices, but don’t want to pony up when they come back and bite them in the ass.

JAGonzo on January 23, 2014 at 4:38 PM

M240H on January 23, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Most of us just don’t want to get billed for your vices. When the medical bills come due, pay them yourself. When drug users cause damage to others, though traffic accidents, the need for medical treatment, etc., it’s not a matter of personal choice anymore.

Thanks to ObamaCare, all of society will pay every time a person who uses and abuses drugs causes harm to themselves to others. They’ll be sticking their neighbors with the tab for their ‘choices’.

Why should we pay for other people’s foolish behavior?

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:45 PM

So, if boxing’s legal it’s only logical that murder should be too.
Akzed on January 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

So people shouldn’t be allowed to put what they want in their own body? Ok, I’ll mark you down in the liberty hating, totalitarian, up in everyone’s private business column.

Dongemaharu on January 23, 2014 at 4:57 PM

I’m imagining all the stoners sitting at home, lighting up….
littleguy on January 23, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Know what I’m imagining? That all those stoners sitting at home and lighting up are federal government workers.

If we can somehow encourage (like they need any encouragement) government officials and workers to toke up, if we can get them to become totally wasted and thrashed day in and day out, they will be incapable of passing or enforcing regulations, spying on us, and generally screwing us over.

I’m against drugs, but for this I’d be willing to check my opposition at the door.

FlameWarrior on January 23, 2014 at 5:01 PM

Why should we pay for other people’s foolish behavior?

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:45 PM

You’re paying for it now, plus the cost of the utterly failing war on drugs. My point is that there isn’t going to be any upsurge at all in rates of usage if all of it is decriminalized. Drug abuse is stupid, every normal person knows that. In fact, rates of usage will probably decrease once that outlaw/rebel allure is gone.

You can cut your losses to less than half what they are now, or, you can keep deluding yourself.

M240H on January 23, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Freak Street fail. Way to fish-lip the issue, America. Just listening to all y’all discuss the issue is painfully hilarious. Carry on, dudes.

Christien on January 23, 2014 at 5:20 PM

M240H on January 23, 2014 at 5:06 PM

And I find you statements short sighted and delusional. Guess we’re even there.

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Let me make this clear. I don’t care how much pot stoner’s smoke. I just don’t want to get tagged with the end costs of that use.

On a personal note, I smile when people tell me they smoke weed. Go ahead. Take the edge off. The competition hopes you do. They smile when you say you’re a stoner, too.

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 5:28 PM

A problem obamacare will solve.

Murphy9 on January 23, 2014 at 5:50 PM

thatsafactjack on January 23, 2014 at 4:45 PM

You’re right you shouldn’t have to pay for others bad choices, but you are now and always have and always will and their is nothing you can do about it. That’s just the way it is.

steel guy on January 23, 2014 at 5:57 PM

A study at the University of Mississippi shows the average potency (THC content) of marijuana confiscated by the government in 1992 was about 3 percent. By 2009, the average potency was about 11 percent, nearly 4 times higher. That means the drug has more of an impact, and is more likely to lead to dependency.

That is counter-intuitive. How many people drink wine, but can’t stand vodka, because it is too “potent” ? You can make the argument that casual and first time users of pot are more likely to want a less potent dose that gives you a mild buzz, rather an extremely potent for that might cause anxiety, nausea and discomfort.

Everytime this topic comes up, there are the usual plethora of comments about the sterotypical “stoners” sitting at home on the couch eating munchies. Pot users are distributed across all ethnic, social, economic and cultural groups. There is no stereotypical pot user.

I don’t care if pot is legalized or not, but an observation :

Driving while drunk – Illegal

Driving while texting – Illegal

Driving while high – Illegal

Sitting at home getting drunk – Legal

Sitting at home texting – Legal

Sitting at home getting high – Illegal

MichaelGabriel on January 23, 2014 at 6:10 PM

When does the push for the legalization of Cocaine begin?

portlandon on January 23, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Patience grasshopper. Small steps. Soon the smoke will clear on the acceptance of legalization of MJ and we can move forward on legalizing other recreational substances of choice.

/SNARK

hawkeye54 on January 23, 2014 at 6:21 PM

America is inching closer and closer to financial ruin. Our freedoms are becoming less with every passing day. And pot heads are out redefining freedom to justify their vice. Talk about priorities being Effed up.

b1jetmech on January 23, 2014 at 9:20 PM

I just do not understand the people still pushing the government line on pot. Conservatives always ramble on about wanting small gov. Except when they want big brother taking care of their issue. The government has absolutely no right to tell people they can’t have a plant anymore than they have any right to tell people who the can or can’t get married to.

paulrtaylor on January 24, 2014 at 6:53 AM

Americans have short memories about drugs and their historical impact on our society. Drugs which are now illegal nationally became so in 1914. The use of opiates became widespread in the US in the latter part of the 19th Century. Morphine became widely available with its use during the Civil War because of the pain suffered because of the wounds and amputations caused by the weapons of the time. Heroin became available in 1894 claiming to cure morphine addition. Opiates were sold widely in the form of patent medicines, and were freely available to anyone who wanted to buy them, children included. Many patent medicines were fifty percent morphine; morphine, cocaine, and heroin were even included in things such as baby colic remedies and toothache drops.

All of this created the serious social problem of addiction and we outlawed drugs on that basis. We are now going down the same road we recognized as dangerous 100 years ago. I have seen the results of habitual marijuana use, and we know that each reefer has more carcinogens than a cigarette. Yet government and society push to stop smoking cigarettes while many having the bully pulpit are encouraging the legalization and use of marijuana.

We have enough problems without having a “stoned” nation

amr on January 24, 2014 at 9:46 AM

Why would anyone believe a poll from the media?

mixplix on January 24, 2014 at 12:23 PM