A new Gallup poll shows a growing majority of Americans- 58 percent, which is up 10 percent since 2012- favor marijuana legalization. Gallup, Inc., founded in 1935, is a researched-based consulting company run out of Washington D.C. and Omaha, Neb. that is most known for its public opinion polls and surveys. Gallup first polled the American public about marijuana legalization in 1969. That poll showed that only 12 percent of the population supported legalization. Also, 38 percent of Americans admitted to having tried marijuana in the most recent poll, compared to 34 percent in 1999 and 33 percent in 1985.
However, while marijuana usage increased only marginally, tolerance of use, especially for medicinal purposes, has skyrocketed in the last few years. “I don’t think it should be illegal,” Dan Smith, professor of humanities and social sciences said. “I don’t see a compelling argument for criminalization.” Twenty states in the U.S. allow for medicinal marijuana use, but in late 2012, Washington and Colorado decriminalized recreational use. In August, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would not prosecute violators of federal marijuana prohibition.
Gallup shows that support for marijuana legalization grew in every demographic it polled, from the young to the old and from the right to the left politically. The only age group opposed was 65 and older at 47 percent approval. The issue of whether the government should criminalize marijuana use coincides with the moral conundrum facing Americans of gay marriage.
“These are somewhat generational conflicts,” Smith said. “The attitudes against marijuana and gay marriage are becoming outdated. The harms of marijuana, while there are some legitimate arguments, a lot of that has always been moral or speculative or some combination of the two.”
In early 2012, a group of 300 economists, including three Nobel laureates, wrote a letter to the U.S. government in which they referred to a report written by professor Jeffery A. Miron.
According to the report, marijuana legalization would save $7.7 billion per year in state and federal expenditures on prohibition enforcement and produce tax revenues of at least $2.4 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like most consumer goods. If, however, marijuana were taxed similarly to alcohol or tobacco, it might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually. Economically, the argument for legalization is sound.
It is also important to note that America now imprisons more people per capita than any other nation. As of 2011, nonviolent drug offenders accounted for about one-fourth of all inmates in the U.S. While the moral arguments against marijuana legalization may be collapsing, the economic arguments are mounting. “Whatever the reasons for Americans’ greater acceptance of marijuana, it is likely that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts across the United States,” Art Swift of Gallup poll said. “Advocates of legalizing marijuana say taxing and regulating the drug could be financially beneficial to states and municipalities nationwide.”
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