Support for marijuana legalization has reached a new high — and young adults are fueling the flames.
A Gallup poll released Tuesday revealed a majority of adults back cannabis legalization for the first time since Gallup asked the question in 1969.
58% of the respondents supported the idea, but among 18- to 29-year-olds the figure jumps to 67%.
Michael Kenney, professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, says supportive attitudes were inevitable among Millennials who came of age in the midst of the legalization debate.
“Every year, millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens are using cannabis,” Kenney says. “It’s not necessarily looked down on by young people. It’s no big whoop.”
Karilla Dyer, a junior at the University of Florida, meets very few people who haven’t tried the drug. Smoking should be considered a lifestyle choice, she says.
“If someone wants to smoke marijuana occasionally in a social setting or just to relax, it should not be more illegal than having a glass of wine,” the 21-year-old says. “Pot is not something that ruins lives.”
Currently, 20 states and Washington, D.C., allow smoked marijuana to be used for a variety of medical conditions. Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational use.
This is in stark contrast to the “just say no” mentality spearheaded by First Lady Nancy Reagan in the ’80s, says Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.
“The federal government and anti-marijuana crusaders have been exaggerating the harms for decades,” he says. “Young people are hearing more about marijuana and marijuana policy than ever before and realizing it’s less harmful than alcohol.”
Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana and author of Reefer Sanity, says not all college students are bowled over by health claims.
“Students really don’t want to jeopardize their future prospects,” he says. “Marijuana can cause problems in the classroom and job performance.”