Tulsa, OK- Last week, marijuana went on sale for recreational use in Colorado with retailer across the states raking a million dollars in sale the first day alone. Washington State will soon begin selling recreational cannabis, and New York State is thinking of making medical marijuana available to people suffering certain chronic illnesses. As more states move to loosen restrictions on marijuana, a new poll conducted by CNN/ ORC International shows that support for legalization is reaching new highs.
In the poll, results of which were released Monday showed that 55 percent of those questioned though marijuana should be legal with only 44 percent That is quite a contrast from decades past when the majority believed that smoking marijuana was immoral.
Support for marijuana legalization was divided among regions, political affiliation and age groups with seniors, Republicans, and Southerners still showing the strongest support for marijuana prohibition.
In the Northeast, 60 percent of respondents said marijuana should be legalized along with 58 percent of the West and 57 percent of the Midwest favoring legalization. Only 48 percent of Southerners approved of legal cannabis, according to the CNN poll.
Most of those who support legal marijuana were under the age of 65 with two-thirds of respondents between 18 to 34 and 60 percent of 35 to 49 year olds approving of legalization. Fifty percent of 50 to 64 year-olds also favored legalization, but support dropped to 39 percent for seniors 65 and older.
Only 36 percent of Republicans favored legalization with 62 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Independents agreeing. Fifty-nine percent of men favored legalization while on 50 percent of women giving their support.
The new poll shows there has been dramatic shift from the “Reefer Madness” Days. In the 80s, the majority of Americans thought marijuana was an immoral danger to society. A poll from 1987 showed that 70 percent of Americans though smoking marijuana was morally wrong now only 35 percent believe it is immoral
“Attitudes toward the effects of marijuana and whether it is morally wrong to smoke pot have changed dramatically over time,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “That also means that marijuana use is just not all that important to Americans any longer.”
For those who oppose nationwide marijuana legalization, their primary concerns are it becoming more widely available to young people—recreational marijuana sales in Colorado are restricted to those age 21 and up. These naysayers are apparently unaware that marijuana is easy for any teen or adult to obtain whether it is illegal or not. And the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug has diminished significantly since the 70s and 80s.
The naysayers are also concerned about the dangers of driving under the influence of marijuana pose to motorists. Most states have strict marijuana DUI laws and in some states such as Oklahoma a person can be charged even when they haven’t smoked in weeks or days.
Broader legalization seems inevitable as support grows. That won’t happen this year or the next five years, but the country seems to moving in the direction. The most assured way to keep the streets safe is for scientists to develop marijuana breathalyzer tests to be used in the field.