How Are Americans Feeling About Marijuana?
Polling Data Is Changing The Debate On Medical Marijuana
“…of the people, by the people, for the people…”
These words have represented the spirit of American government since Lincoln first said them during his Gettysburg Address in 1863. As Americans, we truly believe that the actions of our government should reflect what the majority of it’s citizens want. This is one of the greatest gifts- and greatest struggles- in government today. What do we do when the choices of our people differ from the actions of our elected officials? Many believe that the time has come for our government to perform it’s duty by honoring the wishes of Americans.
What exactly do Americans think of marijuana?
According to a Pew research poll carried out earlier this year, fifty-three percent of Americans support marijuana legalization. The question did not distinguish between medical and recreational use. Forty-nine percent of adults surveyed admitted to using marijuana in the past. CBS News conducted a separate poll in April, with similar results. In addition to asking about general legalization, the poll asked individuals the following question:
” Do you think doctors should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses, or not?”
A shocking eighty-four percent support giving doctors the right to prescribe marijuana. Participants were also asked to choose if they considered alcohol or marijuana to be more physically harmful. Fifty-one percent said alcohol was more harmful, while only twelve percent chose marijuana.
Medical and recreational marijuana have been major federal debates for decades. Since the 1970’s, citizens across the nation have fought to decriminalize the use of cannabis- and failed miserably. Twenty-three states and Washington DC have taken up the issue- directly opposing the national government by passing laws to legalize medical marijuana. Even in the face of such obvious public approval, cannabis remains a schedule 1 narcotic, and therefore, federally illegal.
Countless other surveys have been conducted over the years, including a Gallup poll in 1999 showing that seventy-three percent of adults nationwide support marijuana for medicinal use. In 1999, over seventy percent of Americans were in favor of medical cannabis legalization, yet sixteen years later, our federal government is still arguing about it. The issue has been addressed repeatedly in both congress and the senate. President Obama has spoken openly in favor of medical cannabis, encouraging lawmakers to relax restrictions and penalties.
Americans want legal marijuana.
Why is it that when so many citizens want legal cannabis, our government is dragging its feet? The problem is two-fold. A small, but outspoken minority of individuals and lawmakers still insist that marijuana is a dangerous drug, with no medical benefit- despite evidence and scientific research to the contrary. In addition, the myth that medical marijuana will increase the rate of underage drug use abounds. An exhaustive study published in 2014 reveals that medical cannabis has no direct impact on teen use and separate data published by the Colorado Department of Health actually showed a decrease in marijuana use among teenagers after medical pot was legalized.
It’s time for Americans to make nationwide change regarding marijuana. The next few years are destined to be a turning point- the only question that remains is how long will we wait? State governments support marijuana rights. Over fifty percent of Americans believe in legalization. If our government intends to be of the people, by the people and for the people, the answer is simple.
If you support marijuana rights and believe that our country is ready for change, please consider speaking up. Your voice could make the difference between policy that reflects American values and policy that is based on outdated, inaccurate opinions. Don’t be afraid to express your true feelings about marijuana. How will we grow as a nation if our people don’t act?
If you’re interested in making a difference, please check out the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). They have a current list of legislation in each state and a variety of suggestions about how you can take action.