After nearly a century of cannabis criminalization, U.S. voters — and a growing number of high-profile politicians — are demanding that marijuana policy move in a different direction.
One in five Americans now live in states where the adult, recreational use of marijuana is legal. And the majority of us reside someplace where the medical use of cannabis is legally authorized.
Many of these latter programs have been in place for the better part of two decades. And it’s plain to see the results have been better for public health and safety than criminal prohibition, because public and political support in for marijuana reform just keeps growing.
According to the latest national polling compiled by Gallup, 66 percent of U.S. adults — including majorities of Democrats, independents, and Republicans — believe that the adult use of marijuana should be legal.
Voters’ support for legalizing and regulating cannabis isn’t born out of a presumption that the plant is altogether harmless. To the contrary, society has long acknowledged that cannabis is a mood-altering substance with some risk potential — particularly for young people or among those with a family history of mental illness.
In fact, it’s precisely because marijuana use may pose potential risks that advocacy groups like NORML have long urged lawmakers to regulate it accordingly.
Such regulations already exist governing the use, production, and retail distribution of alcohol and tobacco — two substances that are far more dangerous and costly to society than the responsible adult use of cannabis.
The enforcement of these regulations, coupled with public awareness campaigns to educate consumers about these products’ health effects, have proven effective at reducing the public’s use of these two substances — particularly among U.S. teens.
Specifically, according to 2018 data compiled by the University of Michigan, lifetime use of cigarettes by young people has fallen 70 percent since the early 1990s and is now at a historic low.