The full legalization of marijuana might not be inevitable, like, say, the institutionalization of same-sex marriage, but we will never turn back to the days of public support for full-on criminalization.
In other words, we have turned a corner when it comes to the relaxation of both laws and attitudes, and we will never backtrack. That is according to a new analysis of America's views of cannabis:
E.J. Dionne Jr. and William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution broke down the latest public-opinion data in a report titled "The New Politics of Marijuana Legalization."
They concluded that public opinion on pot is too complex to favor the kind of inevitable evolution of civil rights seen in gay marriage.
For example, conservatives often favor decriminalization, legalization and medical pot as a side effect of their love of states' rights. And opposition to legalization is still deep-seated in this country, the authors say.
Support for legalization, though growing markedly, is not as intense as opposition, and is likely to remain relatively shallow so long as marijuana itself is not seen as a positive good. Whether opinion swings toward more robust support for legalization will depend heavily on the perceived success of the state legalization experiments now under way -- which will hinge in part on the federal response to those experiments.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
That said -- and here's the money conclusion -- America will never return to the kind of anti-marijuana sentiment that led to some of the strict, zero-tolerance laws of the past:
That said, demographic change and widespread public experience using marijuana imply that opposition to legalization will never again return to the levels seen in the 1980s. The strong consensus that formed the foundation for many of today's stringent marijuana laws has crumbled.
We're sure you'll smoke to that.