As marijuana attitudes shift, this may be a year of legalization

To Alison Holcomb, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who wrote the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state, the “enormous jump” in approval of legalization in just a year does not reflect “changes in attitudes about marijuana specifically. Rather, it’s a change in attitudes about whether it’s OK to support marijuana law reform.”

In other words, Americans don’t necessarily like pot more than they used to. The percentage of those who have actually tried it has stayed in the 30% range for three decades. Rather, Americans are simply fed up with criminal penalties they say are neither cost-effective nor just.

Those looking for evidence of marijuana’s momentum need look only to Jan. 8.

That’s the day recreational pot supporters delivered about 46,000 signatures to election officials in Alaska — 50% more than required — putting a measure on legalization one step closer to a vote in the largely Republican state.

That same afternoon in deeply Democratic New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a former prosecutor with a history of opposing the drug, announced a modest medical marijuana pilot project.

“Research suggests that medical marijuana can help manage the pain and treatment of cancer and other serious illnesses,” an uncomfortable looking Cuomo said, giving the subject 27 seconds in a nearly 90-minute State of the State address.