Strong Majorities Believe Marijuana Should Be Legalized, Taxed and Regulated

An Economist poll finds:

A huge majority of Americans, more than two to one once don’t knows have been excluded, support the legalisation and taxation of marijuana. Even without excluding the don’t knows, a clear majority favours treating the drug equivalently to tobacco and alcohol.

The data (see chart) reveal some interesting patterns. In every age group, more people favour than oppose legalisation. Predictably enough, the young are very strongly in favour, but babyboomers are almost as strongly so; and even those over 65 are narrowly in favour as well. Breaking the poll down by party, one finds that Republicans as well as Democrats are in favour, though the former much more narrowly so.

The poll reminds me of Daniel Okrent, who served as the first public editor of The NYTimes and authored, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, speaking in a Fresh Air interview last spring:

Brewing and distilling combined were the fifth-largest industry in America before Prohibition, and bringing them marijuana_leaf.gifback suddenly put tens of thousands of people back to work at a time when unemployment in the U.S. was running as high as 25 percent.

So just as there were these economic factors that created Prohibition, economic reality ended Prohibition. And I think we might be seeing something like that going on today, as there continues to be this widespread resistance to any increase in taxes and as there continues to be a huge federal deficit. Someone soon is going to light upon the idea, aha: I know where we can find some more revenue, some tax revenue, and we can find it in a marijuana plant.

According to one Cato Institute study, legalizing marijuana could generate over $8 billion dollars nationally in tax revenue annually, while saving about the same amount in law enforcement expenses. Salon calls that the most fun way to balance state budgets.

Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis said in a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) interview that support for legalizing marijuana at the federal level is steadily increasing in Congress.

Meanwhile, we learn today that marijuana arrests are increasing in NYC, “140 people a day were arrested on charges of marijuana possession in 2010, making that charge the No. 1 reason for arrest in the city.” This is the sixth year in a row that arrests have increased. And that’s credited not to increased usage but to harsher enforcement.

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