The more people see and experience marijuana, the more supportive of legalization they tend to become. This is one of the strongest things going for the pro-reform movement and means that support may not just continue to steadily increase but may actually accelerate as it spreads.
It is well known that on a personal level if someone has ever tried weed at some point they are much more likely to support ending prohibition. It is possibly the single best indicator to determine if someone will support legalization. According to Pew Research, 70 percent of adults who tried marijuana at least once think it should be legal. That is even higher than the level of support among young people, which is 64 percent.
This is why we see such a clear correlation in Quinnipiac polling between the percent of voters who have tired marijuana and the level of support for legalization in the different states. (The data was used to make the graph).
|Tried Marijuana||Support Legalization|
Now, though, there are early indications that simply having the experience of being in a state with recreational marijuana stores makes voters less concerned about legalization. While we are only dealing with data from Colorado so far, two new polls have confirmed a notable increase in support immediately after the first stores began selling recreational pot in January. Quinnipiac found that in Colorado support went from 54/41 in August to 58/39 in February. Similarly, PPP found support went from 53/39 just weeks before the first stores opened to 57/35 this month.
This happened even though the polling found no increase in the number of Colorado voters who have tried marijuana since the pot stores opened. It would seem once people merely just see that the sky isn’t going to fall because adults can buy pot, they become more open to the idea.
This bodes very well for the spread of legalization. Other Americans that travel to one of the two “green” states will directly see that recreational marijuana stores aren’t a real problem and may even sample the legal weed for the first time. These experiences should make them more supportive of legalization efforts in their home states. That in turn can create a snowball effect because as more states approve their own legalization laws, it increases the chances that more Americans will end up visiting or living in a green state.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy