Pew poll: For the first time, majority supports legalizing marijuana

Next after gay marriage: Choom?

This isn’t quite as huge as people are making it out to be. It’s a big deal for any pollster to show a majority that’s never existed before, but Pew’s not the first to find it. Quinnipiac reported 51 percent in favor of legalization four months ago. A few days before that, CBS got a 47/47 split on the question. As far back as 2011, Gallup was seeing 50/46 in favor. What’s significant about Pew’s data isn’t the topline number but the details. Support for legalization is up in every demographic, frequently by double digits, with 72 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of seniors agreeing that marijuana has legitimate medical uses. After an 80s-era experiment in “clean living,” baby boomers are rekindling their youthful romance with weed (which we already knew): 50 percent now support legalizing it, which is on par with that group’s level of support in the 1970s. If you compare the rise in support since 2000 for legalizing marijuana to the rise in support for legalizing gay marriage, you’ll find that opinion has changed more quickly towards the former than it has towards the latter. Per Pew, opposition to legalizing pot exceeded support by roughly 30 points at the turn of the century. Opposition to SSM exceeded support by only 22 points or so. For all the ink spilled on America’s rapid “evolution” on gays, they’re “evolving” arguably even more rapidly on weed.

The key data set:


The second result there isn’t surprising — Gallup’s seen a turn toward federalism in this regard too — but it’s hard to square the Republican numbers in the third result with the numbers from the first. I think a lot of people treat the basic legalization question as more of a referendum on whether pot use is something society should frown upon. (Although do note: Only 32 percent now say smoking marijuana is morally wrong versus 50 percent who say it isn’t, which is almost an exact reversal from just seven years ago.) When you get more specific about the nuts and bolts of legalization by asking if government should devote resources to enforcing prohibition, even the GOP numbers soar to a heavy majority. If you’re a pro-legalization pol, that’s the way to talk about this issue — not as legal/illegal in the abstract but in terms of cost, both human and pecuniary.

But yes, to answer the question up top, marijuana is next to be legalized. Won’t happen during O’s term but there’s a fair chance it’ll happen during the next presidency — which is too bad, because a Choom Gang reunion at the repeal signing ceremony would have been magical.

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