As marijuana legalization continues to spread across the U.S. and the world at large, more and more Americans seem poised to end prohibition. The most recent polls from Pew Research Center and Gallup indicate that about 62 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing the plant for personal adult use. This is a huge increase from just 10 years ago when the number was at 35 percent of the population in favor of marijuana reform. Now, the majority of Americans want the plant legalized, 31 states have legalized the plant for medical use and 9 states, as well as D.C., have legalized the plant for personal adult use.
Reasons Behind the Surge in Approval
There may be a number of factors involved in the change of public opinion. Politifact explored the subject, talking to various experts in the industry. Justin Strekal, the political director of the pro-marijuana advocacy group the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, credits much of it to the use and popularity of the internet. Where in the past the public only had access to propaganda about marijuana, now people have access to information, studies and a broader range of experts, people and their experiences.
A Return to Medical Origins
They also spoke to Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, who said that California’s decision to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes allowed the public to start viewing the plant as a medicinal resource. “Marijuana is often seen as a more benign, less addictive pain relief alternative to opioids,” he told Politifact. “Lots of folks who wouldn’t qualify for medical marijuana categorization might jump at the chance to buy marijuana legally, and that could possibly reduce reliance on opioids.” Up until the ‘30s, cannabis was widely used for medicinal purposes, so, in essence, this is a return to its original use. Opioid-related hospital visits, overdoses and addiction have decreased in states with legal access to marijuana.
A Major Catalyst in Cannabis Reform
When it comes to influencing marijuana reform, the parents of children with debilitating illnesses, such as epilepsy, have been the loudest advocates and responsible for affecting the opinion of many politicians across the country. The plant’s ability to reduce and treat the number of seizures a child may have a day, has been a lifesaving benefit to many families and a big factor in increasing quality of life.
Impact of Legalization
The success of legalization in the first states to legalize, has made a big impact on social consciousness as well. The Colorado Department of Public Safety has just released its baseline reports on how legalization has affected teen use and driving and the statistics are encouraging. Teen use has not increased since its legalization. Teens caught with marijuana are expelled and it is the main cause of teen expulsion in the 2016-17 school year. However, the number of students consuming the plant has not increased since it was made legal. Graduation rates have also increased and dropout rates have decreased since marijuana legalization in 2012. The report shows that marijuana legalization has not negatively affected teen use in any way. Colorado State Patrol DUI cases were shown to have decreased between 2014 and 2017. Marijuana-only citations stayed at a steady 7 percent over the 5 years since legalization.
All things combined, public consciousness, when it comes to marijuana, is changing and the desire of the majority of Americans is to legalize the plant for personal adult use. On a federal level, the plant is still categorized as a Schedule I substance, meaning it is considered the highest risk for abuse, having no medical use and too dangerous for medical testing on humans. The is a categorization that places it alongside heroin and LSD. It seems only a matter of time before the classification is updated to suit the most recent medical and statistical research as well as public opinion.