BY ED MORRISSEY – – – – – –
Voters in five states will go to the polls to decide whether to legalize marijuana, and a new Gallup poll finds the wind at the backs of pro-legalization advocates. Support for legalization has hit a new high, so to speak, of 60% — up more than twenty points over the last decade. Approval has risen sharply in every age and political demo, and constitutes a majority in most of them:
With voters in several states deciding this fall whether to legalize the use of marijuana, public support for making it legal has reached 60% — its highest level in Gallup’s 47-year trend.
Marijuana use is currently legal in four states and the District of Columbia, and legalization measures are on the ballot in five more — California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada — this November. As a result, the percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5% to as much as 25% if all of these ballot measures pass. …
Support for legalizing marijuana use has increased among most subgroups in the past decade, but more so among certain groups than others. For example, support is up 33 percentage points to 77% among adults aged 18 to 34, while it is up 16 points among adults aged 55 and older to 45%.
In other words, don’t blame this all on millennials. The normalization of marijuana use has impacted every demographic — even Republicans. In 2005, 20% of GOP voters supported legalization; today, that support has risen to 42%. Two-thirds of Democrats support it, doubling the 2005 level of support, but even more independents back legalization at 70%.
Politically speaking, this looks like a preference cascade, not all that dissimilar to same-sex marriage:
This does have implications for the presidential election, too, although perhaps only marginally so. Three of these states could help tip the balance for the White House — Nevada certainly, and perhaps Arizona and Maine, although those would be more of an indicator of a larger win/loss in the Electoral College. Referenda such as these can have an impact on turnout, and enthusiasm from independents and Democrats could make life even more difficult for Donald Trump in Nevada and Arizona.
Eventually, these numbers almost guarantee that legalization referenda or legislation will be coming to every state. (Next year’s slate of states could include Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and that list could expand.) With the track record in Colorado and Washington still a bit unclear on long-term consequences, a rush to normalize recreational marijuana seems a bit unwise, but it will take a stronger argument than that to reverse this popular trend.