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Polls say people want legal pot

Pew Research Center poll says majority of Americans OK with legalization of marijuana

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Nixon: “Now, this is one thing I want. I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, [commission]?”

Haldeman: “Sure.”

Nixon: “I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them. I see another thing in the news summary this morning about it. You know it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them? I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists, you know, there’s so many, all the greatest psychiatrists are Jewish. By god we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss, I want to find a way of putting more on that. …”

Haldeman: “Mm-hmm, yep.”

Haldeman and Ehrlichman were each found guilty of orchestrating that infamous break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office complex; both men served 18 months in federal custody.

Despite a seeming respite during the remainder of the 1970s, the crusade picked up with alacrity after the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981. Throughout the following four presidential administrations, the viewpoint of at least more than half those Americans polled felt pot was too dangerous to view any other way than as a public scourge, like crack or heroin. 

But, that was then. (As a point of reference, “then” reaches as far back as 2011.)

The Pew study, which naturally has weed advocates buzzing, is groundbreaking in its unambiguous demonstration that a majority of Americans now favor legalization. In a previous poll conducted by Gallup last November, when asked whether the federal government should take steps to enforce anti-marijuana laws in those states where marijuana use is legal, 64 percent of adults responded no; 34 percent said yes, the federal law should trump state law. While an inference from the majority of respondents who said yes to states’ rights was that marijuana should be legal in all states, when the question was asked whether you think marijuana should be legal, less than half, or 48 percent, responded in the affirmative; 50 percent said pot should not be legal.

What’s happened between then and now?

While it’s not a simple answer, there seems to be a confluence of events that have led to a majority shift in opinion. By parsing Pew’s results, one of the biggest drivers of change becomes self-evident: There’s strength in numbers.

The percentage of support for legalizing pot is directly proportional to the generation of the respondent. For instance, members of what is called the “Silent Generation,” those born between 1925-1945, continue to be less supportive of marijuana legalization than younger adults, but even here the number favoring legalization has nearly doubled – from 17 percent to 32 percent – since 2002.

Compare that with fully 65 percent of millennials – those adults born since 1980 who are now between the ages of 18 and 32 – who favor legalizing the use of marijuana, which is up from just 36 percent in 2008, and you’ll start to understand the game-changer.

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