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Smoking Pot and Tying the Knot
February 25, 2013, 10:46 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Smoking Pot and Tying the Knot:

No matter how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the two gay
marriage cases it will hear this spring, polling data suggest it is
only a matter of time before legal recognition of same-sex unions
is the norm throughout the country. Something similar is happening
with marijuana, which became legal in Colorado and Washington in
December. With both pot and gay marriage, familiarity is breeding
The Supreme Court cases deal with popular reactions against gay
marriage: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that
prohibited federal recognition of state-licensed gay marriages, and
Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative that amended California’s
constitution to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. But
something interesting happened after those measures passed: Surveys
now indicate that most Americans support gay marriage.
The turnaround was remarkably fast. A 1996 Gallup poll found
that 27 percent of Americans thought same-sex marriages should be
“recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as
traditional marriages”; by 2011 that number had nearly doubled.
Recent surveys by ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN also put support for gay
marriage above 50 percent.
Striking generational differences mean these numbers will
continue to rise. In a November CBS News poll, 72 percent of
18-to-29-year-olds supported gay marriage, compared to 53 percent
of 30-to-44-year-olds, 44 percent of 45-to-64-year-olds, and 33
percent of respondents who were 65 or older.
The consequences of these changing attitudes could be seen in
November’s election results. For the first time ever, gay marriage
was legalized by popular referendum—not in one state but in three:
Maine, Maryland, and Washington. Voters in a fourth state,
Minnesota, rejected an initiative that would have amended the state
constitution to prohibit gay marriage (on top of a statutory
On the same day, voters in Colorado and Washington approved
ballot measures aimed at legalizing the cultivation, possession,
and sale of marijuana for recreational use. The initiatives won by
surprisingly healthy margins of about 10 points in both states, in
contrast with a California legalization measure that lost by seven
points in 2010.
Nationwide support for marijuana legalization, like nationwide
support for gay marriage, has increased dramatically, although not
quite as swiftly, rising from 12 percent in a 1969 Gallup poll to a
record 50 percent last year. While support for legalization dipped
a bit during the anti-pot backlash of the Just Say No era, it began
rising again in the 1990s. In December, Public Policy Polling put
it at 58 percent, the highest level ever recorded.
With pot as with gay marriage, there are clear age-related
differences, reflecting different levels of experience with
marijuana. In the CBS News survey, support for legalization was 54
percent among 18-to-29-year-olds, 53 percent among
30-to-44-year-olds, 46 percent among 45-to-64-year-olds, and 30
percent among respondents of retirement age.
Just as an individual’s attitude toward gay people depends to a
large extent on how many he knows (or, more to the point, realizes
he knows), his attitude toward pot smokers (in particular, his
opinion about whether they should be treated like criminals) is apt
to be influenced by his personal experience with them. Americans
younger than 65, even if they have never smoked pot, probably know
people who have, and that kind of firsthand knowledge provides an
important reality check on the government’s anti-pot
Another clear pattern in both of these areas: Republicans are
much more likely than Democrats to oppose legalizing marijuana and
gay marriage. Yet Republicans are also more likely to oppose
federal interference with state policy choices. In light of DOMA’s
disregard for state marriage laws and the Obama administration’s
threats to prevent Colorado and Washington from allowing marijuana
sales, now is put-up-or-shut-up time for the GOP’s avowed


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