If you could get in a time machine and go back to the United States 100 years ago, you would find a society that knew very little about cannabis; in fact, most people would have no idea what you were talking about at all. If you landed in 1969, you would find cannabis well-known among the hippie culture, but only 12% of society believing it should be legal.
A new Pew Research poll says that 67% of respondents now believe cannabis should be legal for adults for any reason, and only 8% think cannabis should not be legal for any reason. Just 3 years ago, that number was 15%.
Think about all the things that have happened in the last 100 years when it comes to the cannabis plant. It went from something very few people knew anything about, to something that most people not only knew about, but thought caused all kinds of horrific effects. From that it has become something that most people recognize has medical benefits, at the very least.
Of course, most of that progress has been made during the age of the Internet, when the speed with which information can be spread has grown exponentially. Without that, I can only imagine that the shift in public opinion would have been slowed considerably.
In any case, it’s important to acknowledge every now and then just how fast things have moved. It’s easy to get disillusioned with progress if you try to look at the state of the cannabis law reform movement without perspective.
As many of you know, I’m not a big fan of polls. I don’t think I should have to get permission from strangers to use cannabis since my use infringes on the rights of no one. The whole notion of asking someone I don’t know and who pays no price for the choices I make what they think about my marijuana use is ridiculous to me. But sadly, we have decided as a society that strangers should have a lot of say over our private lives. It’s not something I agree with, just something I recognize as a practical reality.
In that context, going from 12% approving of legalization to 8% feeling no reason is good enough for legalization in just 50 years is an incredible shift. It shows the power of truth to cut through generations of stigma and the power of a relatively small group of people who truly believe in the cause they are espousing.
We still have a long way to go, but the ground we have covered so far is quite impressive if you take a moment to ponder it.