Marijuana legalization won big at the polls this week, with separate voters initiatives passing in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, DC, even though the electorate in this particular contest skewed far older and more conservative than the overall make-up of the country. Which is significant, when you consider senior citizens and Republicans are the only two voting blocks left that will reliably vote against legalization.
Still, educating those 65 and older about the many benefits of marijuana legalization remains a major challenge for the movement. But what about those just about to start voting?
According to “An Examination of Opinions toward Marijuana Policies among High School Seniors in the United States,” a new study from the NYU Center for Drug Use and HIV Research, a large majority of current high school seniors favor either full legalization, or decriminalization to the point that use and possession are treated as minor violations.
Head researcher Joseph Palamar studied students’ views of marijuana and the law by analyzing data from the federal government’s annual “Monitoring the Future” report, itself based on a nationwide survey of high school students administered in approximately 130 public and private schools throughout 48 states.
Overall, he found that 33 percent of high school seniors want marijuana legalized, with an additional 28.5 percent in support of treating it as a minor violation without criminal penalties. Support for legalization was much higher among males (39.2 percent) than females (26.7 percent). While political beliefs played an even larger role in determining respondents’ views.
“Unsurprisingly, political affiliation tended to be strongly associated with positions toward legalization,” according to the study. “Conservatives were consistently against legalization and decriminalization, and liberals were consistently at higher odds for supporting more liberal policies.”
Refreshingly, however, the researchers aren’t attempting to frame high school seniors’ strong support for altering our nation’s disastrous marijuana policy as some kind of looming drug apocalypse. Instead, Palamar seems to understand that these young adults are perfectly capable of making up their own minds on the issue, whether they plan to smoke pot or not.
“Support for legalization doesn’t necessarily mean intent to use,” Palamar said. “A large percentage of non-users now support legalization, and this can be based on support for liberty, eliminating arrests, raising tax revenues, reducing black markets and associated corruption and harm and even to reduce access to youths.”
Which means the best strategy for the marijuana movement going forward might be making sure that all these high-minded young voters call up their grandparents before the next election, and give them an earful on legalizing the herb!