Should Legalized Marijuana Receive More Public Support?

Source: Gallup

Despite decades of increasing public support, only a slim majority of Americans currently favor legalizing marijuana. Dancing with Mary Jane has always been a controversial activity in our society, but is it finally time to embrace her economic benefits?

According to a new poll from Gallup, 51% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up slightly from 50% in 2010, 2011, and 2012, but down noticeably from its record high of 58% last year. Meanwhile, Americans who say marijuana should not be legal jumped from 39% in 2013 to 47% in 2014. The poll was conducted in mid-October, during the run-up to the midterm elections, in which various pro-marijuana policy initiatives went before voters.

Colorado’s legalization of marijuana likely boosted public support last year, but the focus has shifted somewhat in 2014.

“More recently, Colorado has been in the news over the sale of marijuana-infused edibles — everything from brownies to gummy bears — and the risk they pose to children, possibly sparking public concern,” reports Gallup. “Also, a year ago, proponents in California were poised to launch a ballot initiative for 2014 to legalize marijuana in the Golden State, adding to the sense of momentum for legalization, but later decided to wait until 2016 for fear of losing at the polls, as they did in 2010. The relative lack of attention to new legalization initiatives throughout 2014 may have caused public support to subside.”

On the positive for marijuana proponents, other states recently joined Colorado and Washington in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and even the District of Columbia passed measures to end the prohibitionist system. More than a dozen other states have already decriminalized certain amounts of marijuana. Decriminalization typically means no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the public to throw support behind legalized marijuana is the economic effect. In addition to having fewer Americans in jail for something like recreational weed, a new multibillion-dollar industry is waiting to flourish in the land of capitalism. GreenWave Advisors estimates that retail marijuana sales could reach roughly $35 billion per year by 2020 if full legalization occurs in all 50 states. This would certainly boost state finances. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that recreational sales of marijuana totaled $34.1 million in August. Since the beginning of the year, Colorado has collected more than $45.2 million in taxes, licenses, and fees for recreational and medical marijuana.

Major shifts in society are usually meet with resistance, but once the benefits become obvious, the status quo starts to change. Interestingly, Pew Research finds that most Americans believe alcohol is more harmful to a person’s health than marijuana, and 63% believe alcohol would still be more harmful to society even if marijuana became widely available like alcohol.

Follow Eric on Twitter @Mr_Eric_WSCS

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