Pubdate: Fri, 06 Mar 2015
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2015 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post


WASHINGTON - For the first time, the General Social Survey - a 
national survey conducted every two years and widely considered to 
represent the gold standard for public opinion research - shows a 
majority of Americans favors the legalization of marijuana.

In interviews conducted between March and October of last year - when 
the legal marijuana markets in Colorado and Washington were ramping 
up - researchers asked 1,687 respondents the following question: "Do 
you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?"

Fifty-two percent said pot should be legalized, 42 percent opposed 
it, and another 7 percent were undecided. Support is up 9 percentage 
points from 2012, the last time the survey was conducted.

The GSS marijuana numbers trace the trajectory of U.S. drug policy 
over the past 40 years.

In 1974, a year after the Shafer Commission recommended removing 
marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, public 
support for full legalization stood at 19 percent.

Support rose through the 1970s, reaching nearly 30 percent in 1978, 
only to plummet during the Reagan years, "Just Say No" and the advent 
of the drug war.

The year 1990 represented the nadir of legalization support, when it 
stood at 16 percent.

But the numbers rose steadily through the 1990s as states began 
adopting medical marijuana laws, starting with California in 1996.

As recently as 2006, support stood at 32 percent - just a little bit 
higher than the previous peak in 1978.

In the fewer than 10 years since then, support has jumped 20 
percentage points - mirroring, in many ways, the dramatic shift in 
public opinion on gay marriage over the same period.

Legalization supporters have been able to capitalize on that energy 
and secure full legalization in four states, with a partial legal 
status in Washington, D.C. Opponents have scrambled to catch up, but 
the sharp increase in public opinion means they're facing an uphill 
battle. That fact that they've been drastically outspent at every 
turn hasn't helped things.

Younger Americans - including Republican ones - favor marijuana 
legalization. And after a year of legal pot, Colorado doesn't appear 
to be experiencing buyer's remorse.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 58 percent of Colorado's voters 
said they supported the state's marijuana law - slightly more than 
the 55 percent who approved it in 2012.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom