Pubdate: Wed, 11 Dec 2013
Source: Daily Iowan, The (IA Edu)
Copyright: 2013 The Daily Iowan


As more and more states and municipalities test the waters of 
legalizing medical marijuana, some have argued that Iowa's 
conservative roots would prevent a similar effort from getting 
through the Legislature. Outside of the major population centers, 
this line of reasoning goes, support for controversial policies such 
as medical marijuana loses momentum, especially as the use of 
marijuana decreases.

But poll results released Tuesday paint a different picture. The 
University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll, a survey of approximately 1,000 
Iowans, found 59.3 percent of respondents from all age groups support 
legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The poll's findings come as the Johnson County Board of Supervisors 
and some Iowa legislators weigh reforms to local marijuana laws. The 
supervisors met Tuesday with state legislators and voiced support for 
policy changes, including legalizing medical marijuana and the 
decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

On this issue, the supervisors seem to side with the young.

Like most polls conducted on the topic, a generation gap emerges in 
the Hawkeye Poll data. Two-thirds of respondents between the ages of 
18 and 34 favored legalizing medical marijuana, and almost three in 
five between the ages of 35 to 54 and 55 to 69 did as well (57.5 and 
59.6 percent, respectively).

What's interesting about these results is that the use of marijuana 
seems to vary little among younger age groups, and yet the opinions 
between them on whether its use is harmful differ widely.

When asked if they had ever tried marijuana, nearly half (49.7) 
percent of 18- to 34-year-olds reported trying it, while 47.7 percent 
of 35- to 54-year-olds had as well. The numbers decline as age 
increases. Only 11.5 percent of those 70 and older had tried marijuana.

On whether marijuana use is harmful, only 45.2 percent of 18- to 
34-year-olds said it is, compared with 63.4 percent among those ages 
35-54. The difference is striking, and reflects a growing segment of 
the population that no longer believes in the supposed harms of 
marijuana, at least for those in pain and suffering seeking its 
potent medical properties.

Despite only a 2-point difference in use of marijuana, opinions on 
its harm vary by nearly 20 percent between these two age groups. It's 
not that younger people all use marijuana. Even without increased 
exposure to it, the stigma behind marijuana as a gateway to abuse 
seems to be fading.

It seems this younger generation -- which grew up with programs such 
as D.A.R.E. and the nationwide war on drugs -- has come to realize 
that the things they have been told (and are still told) about 
marijuana simply aren't true.

The federal government stubbornly clings to marijuana's Schedule I 
classification (meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no 
accepted medical use in treatment) while 20 states have utilized 
medical marijuana, some for years.

On this issue, the young are practical. They understand that drug 
use, even one they mostly think isn't harmful like marijuana, comes 
with risks. More in the 18-34 age group oppose recreational 
legalization (49 percent) than favor it (43.9 percent).

But they also understand that the prohibition of potentially 
life-saving medicine simply doesn't make sense. The Iowa Pharmacy 
Board voted unanimously to recommend medical marijuana in 2010, and 
with this latest poll, there's also clear agreement among those that 
will shape Iowa's future.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom