EDITORIAL: Marijuana prohibition just went up in smoke

A Gallup poll released this week reveals that now a whopping 64 percent of all Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized

The tide turned forever this week on ending marijuana prohibition.

A Gallup poll released this week reveals that now a whopping 64 percent of all Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized.

The poll is most striking in that, now, even a majority of Republicans believe it’s time to end marijuana prohibition. Attitudes in other Western nations are very much the same.

It’s time for Congress to act.

After last year’s state and national elections, a stunning 29 states now have laws that one way or another legalize marijuana. Six states, including Colorado — and now California —  have legalized recreational use of marijuana. It’s clear that many more states will soon follow.

Just like the national move to end homophobia and ensure civil rights for all Americans, legal weed will prevail because it makes sense.

The compelling reasons Colorado voters approved the use of recreational pot are the same all over the country: People want it. People can get it. People will continue to use it. And all of those things remain true no matter how hard the government tries to change any of it. Despite decades of prohibition, endless propaganda, policing and criminal prosecution by federal, state and local governments, America’s appetite for marijuana has never diminished. It was the same with liquor.

After endless years and endless billions of dollars, the war on marijuana was a colossal failure on all levels. It made criminals out of Americans who never were. It created a huge criminal industry outside and even inside the country, where Mafia-like gangs have murdered and bypassed tax systems in a wide range of places around the world.

Criminalizing marijuana has wasted billions of dollars and resources that could have been spent addressing true issues and crime problems.

Don’t confuse this with an endorsement for indulging in marijuana in any of its forms. Like alcohol, the proven benefits are few and the proven consequences are many. But whether it’s drinking beer, doing Jell-O shots, sipping hundred-dollar bottles of wine, vaping hash oil or doing home-grown bong hits, people like getting high, and they’re going to continue to do it.

The marijuana industry, fed most by a growing number of states allowing for the “medical” use of marijuana, produces tens of billions of dollars in product each year. As Colorado discovered several years ago as a leader in pot legalization, it’s impossible to argue that the vast majority of medical-marijuana users use the drug for medicinal purposes. So Colorado reflected reality and made it legal. Colorado has been a model for why the move to legalization was a good one. Initial research shows legalized weed has not increased the number of minors using it. We haven’t lost vast tracts of Colorado to becoming vacant-eyed zombies who can’t hold a job. Reefer madness never happened. It never will.

We can appreciate states being able to decide the issues of legality and access themselves, similarly to how the states regulate alcoholic beverages. But it’s time now for Congress to assert federal legislation to protect the rights of these states, and there’s likely a majority of legislators open to discuss it. Rather than wait for the new Trump Administration to make a move that could negatively affect Colorado’s wise and prudent progress, and that of other states, Congress must cue the administration and take the lead on preserving and enhancing this progress.

Federal lawmakers must address issues of banking, security, drug testing, interstate commerce and more. This isn’t about one state gone rogue. This is about a trend that will soon sweep almost every state and more than likely move beyond America’s borders. This is about doing the right thing at the right time.

Americans’ support for marijuana legalization has reached a new high, the latest Gallup poll shows.

Gallup poll results released Wednesday found that 64 percent of adult survey respondents said they thought the use of marijuana should be made legal. It’s the highest total in Gallup’s nearly 50 years of posing the question.

It’s also the first time that a majority of Republican respondents favored legalization.

The survey of 1,028 Americans over the age of 18 also found that 51 percent of respondents with Republican political affiliation said they supported legal marijuana. That’s up from 42 percent in 2016. Although more Democrats favored legalization — up to 72 percent from 67 percent — support fell among Independents to 67 percent from 70 percent.

“The trajectory of American’s views on marijuana is similar to that of their view on same-sex marriage over the past couple of decades,” Gallup officials wrote in the release of the marijuana poll results. “On both issues, about a quarter supported legalization in the late 1990s, and today 64 percent favor each. Over the past several years, Gallup has found that Americans have become more liberal on a variety of social issues.”

When Gallup first posed the marijuana legalization question in October 1969, only 12 percent of respondents were in favor. A whopping 84 percent sat opposed.

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The levels of support slowly climbed in the decades that followed, settling in at 25 percent in the 1980s and 1990s and in the mid-30 percent range during the early 2000s.

Fourteen years ago, public opinion was an inverse image of where it’s at today: 64 percent of adults surveyed opposed marijuana legalization, 34 percent said it should be legal and 2 percent had no opinion.

Public opinion has been in step with successful marijuana legalization efforts across the United States, Gallup officials said.

In late November 2012, following the states of Colorado and Washington voting to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, the Gallup marijuana poll showed support of legalization at 48 percent. That climbed to 58 percent by October 2013.

Last year — in advance of nine states voting on legalization measures, eight of which passed — Americans favored legalization at a level of 60 percent. A Quinnipiac poll released in August showed that 61 percent of those polled agreed that “the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States.”

The Gallup poll released Wednesday was conducted Oct. 5 through 11. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.