Could A Public Opinion Backlash Stall Further Pot Legalization?


This year, for the first time, national polls show a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, says NPR. Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana in November 2012, and the two states have spent the past year setting up the rules for new, legal markets. “Marijuana is now normal. It’s normal in Colorado and Washington, and I think it’ll soon be normal in most other states,” says Keith Stroup, a founder of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The challenge has been winning over the majority of people who don’t use marijuana and don’t plan to. Stroup thinks that was accomplished in part by the medical marijuana movement. It rebranded pot, moving it off the street corner and into benign-looking dispensaries with green crosses in the windows.

There are still plenty of people in no mood to start making accommodations for the new culture. Last week in Pierce County, in supposedly pot-friendly Washington state, the County Council barrec state-licensed pot stores from rural parts of the county. Stroup worries about a backlash. One reason he’s worried is the fad of marijuana concentrates — the oils and syrups that are dozens of times stronger than any bud. They’re being legalized now alongside more traditional marijuana, and he sees a risk. In the ’70s, things were looking good, too — a number of states decriminalized pot. Then things stalled. “The last of the 11 states to decriminalize marijuana was Nebraska in 1978. We did not win another single statewide victory in this country until 1996 — 18 years later,” Stroup says. The lesson? Public opinion can turn on you.

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