More Americans want marijuana to be legalized than ever before.
In a Gallup Poll released last week, exactly half of the responders said the government should legalize pot – the highest percentage ever recorded in the poll.
The question was first asked by Gallup in 1969, in which only 12 percent of Americans favored it, while 84 percent were opposed.
Even though 50 percent are in favor, the numbers differ greatly between different age ranges and political ideologies. Sixty-nine percent of liberals favor legalization, opposed to 34 percent of conservatives and 62 percent of 18 to 29 year olds favor legalization, opposed to 31 percent of those 65 and older.
Since the number of those in favor of pot legalization is rising every year, pressure is starting to be put on the government to legalize it. There are opinions on both sides of what should be done though.
“This is a historic day in the decades-long war on marijuana,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), through a press release. “As of today, a majority of the American public believes the use of marijuana should be legal for adults.”
Meanwhile, the debate on the issue is taking place around campus, as well as around the country. The most recent statistics of UC Davis show that 18.4 percent of students use marijuana at least occasionally, which is by far the most commonly documented illegal drug to be used by Davis students, according to UC Davis’ Safe Party website.
“I’m personally against legalizing marijuana,” said Jonathan, a sophomore political science and history double major, who chose not to disclose his last name. “If you legalize marijuana, you would be committing yourself to losing the war on drugs.”
Despite marijuana being illegal in America, it is legal in other countries. Psychology major Nyala Noe, who is from the Netherlands, is studying abroad at UC Davis. She has a first hand experience of living in a country in which pot is legal and has smoked in public settings.
“I’m fine with [marijuana legalization],” she said. “People should be able to do whatever they want to do.”
While the main debate is whether pot should be legalized, a part of the debate is who should determine if it is legal.
“I don’t think it is a federal government issue,” Jonathan said. “It is a state’s right issue.”
Whether the federal or state governments will be the deciding factor, has yet to be determined, the federal government has been involved with the issue, including introducing legislation in Congress.
Last June, Representatives Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced legislation to end the federal ban on marijuana and let the states choose whether to legalize it.
While marijuana is illegal under federal law, 16 states allow medical marijuana, leading to clashes between local and federal authorities. Federal intervention led to the shutdown of medical marijuana dispensaries in southern California and Montana earlier this year.
This past Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates in San Francisco announced they are drafting a 2012 ballot initiative to impose statewide oversight of California’s burgeoning medicinal cannabis trade.
The ballot initiative is in direct response to the federal government intervening with dispensaries.
The federal government keeps busy dealing with marijuana issues. For example, someone is arrested for a marijuana offense every 37 seconds and there are more arrests for marijuana possession each year than for all violent crimes combined, according to MPP.
“The American people are clearly saying it is time to stop arresting adults for using marijuana,” Kampia said in the press release. “Now it is time for our elected officials to listen to the public.”
ZANDER WOLD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.