Why lawmakers still pass on grass even though legalizing marijuana is popular

2) The payoff is minimal

As with issues like guns and immigration, the support/oppose polls don’t necessarily tell the whole story. While a majority supports legalizing marijuana, lawmakers might stand to lose more than they stand to gain by supporting it. That’s because issues like this are all about intensity.

While polling on intensity of marijuana support is limited, consider this: Pew’s poll last year showed just 12 percent of Americans had used marijuana in the past year, while 32 percent said it was morally wrong to do so. So those who are morally opposed to the use of the drug are nearly three times as plentiful as those who actually use the drug.

Now, that’s not to say that nobody who doesn’t use marijuana doesn’t feel strongly about it. Indeed, an issue like gay marriage shows that plenty of people who aren’t directly affected by a potential change in the law can still be pretty passionate about it. But marijuana isn’t exactly a huge civil rights issue.