Nate Silver has a good piece up about the increasing popularity of marijuana legalization. Apparently the numbers have been on the rise for the last twenty years and now are roughly 42 in favor and 50 against. Here is his chart:
These polls are usually based on a simple permutation of "Do you favor or oppose the legalization of marijuana." I doubt most respondents have heard the best arguments in favor (or perhaps against). The result is that they answer based on whether they think marijuana is harmful or not particularly harmful rather than thinking through how a thing being legal or illegal impacts its incidence. If someone was framiliar with these three arguments (my favorites) I bet they'd be a lot more than 42% likely to support legalization of marijuana (or at least decriminalization):
- Tough on Crime When we prohibited alcohol it led to the rapid expansion and increasing violence of gangs because they had a natural market. LEgalizing marijuana would hurt the multi-national gangs that sometimes sell it.
- Makes it Safer The biggest health risk with marijuana is foreign additives like rat poison (rare but dangerous). If it was legal and FDA regulated, people could be much surer of the safety or non-safety of a specific package. Since usage would be unlikely to change much from legalization this would be a good way to make the public safer.
- Save money, make money. Because it would be sold in more conventional ways, marijuana would be taxed and the US would generate billions of a dollars in revenues. Lord know we could use the money. I'd force a % of it into education. The US has more non-violent drug offenders locked up than there are people imprisoned for all crimes in all of Europe. It is very costly to lock people up. We'd save almost as much money from not locking up marijuana users as we would gain from the tax. The economic impacts taken together are very powerful.