The public just won’t buy the old arguments anymore

A lot of people have been talking about the new Pew Research Poll showing that a majority now supports legalizing marijuana (for the first time in this major poll).

I’m not at all surprised, and, to some extent, I was even more interested by some of the other questions in the survey.

As support for marijuana legalization has grown, there has been a decline in the percentage viewing it as a “gateway drug.” Currently, just 38% agree that “for most people the use of marijuana leads to the use of hard drugs.” In 1977, 60% said its use led to the use of hard drugs.

This has been one of the major arguments used (misused) by prohibitionists for decades. They used a vague definition of “gateway,” consistently conflated correlation with causation, and just plain lied. We knew, of course, but we had an uphill battle getting that understanding to the people. It seems that we’ve made real progress.


More recently, there has been a major shift in attitudes on whether it is immoral to smoke marijuana. Currently, 32% say that smoking marijuana is morally wrong, an 18-point decline since 2006 (50%). Over this period, the percentage saying that smoking marijuana is not a moral issue has risen 15 points (from 35% then to 50% today).

This was a major issue keeping small-government social conservatives supporting criminalization. Take away the moral opposition, and conservatives have very little reason not to support legalization.

I was thinking about how the general public no longer blindly supports the tired old false arguments when I read the Drug Czar’s latest blog post: Director Kerlikowske Joins Secretary Napolitano on Southwest Border

As part of the visit, Director Kerlikowske released a progress update on Administration efforts to strengthen border security. Some of the highlights include:

Increased weapons and drugs seizures. During 2009-2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seized 39 percent more drugs, 71 percent more currency, and 189 percent more weapons along the Southwest border as compared to fiscal years (FY) 2005-2008.

And I was struck at just how… old that kind of argument feels today. So I tweeted to the Czar:

.@ONDCP @RafaelONDCP After decades of bragging on increased seizures, does anyone still buy that as “progress”?


.@ONDCP @RafaelONDCP If you trapped 10 mice in your home last year and 50 this year, would you call that progress? Increase in seizures?

I think the public is quite ready to be receptive to realizing just how stupid the argument is that increased seizures are a measure of drug war success, when they are in fact, the reverse.

It takes a lot of work to undo decades of propaganda, particularly among the public who aren’t at all focused on drug policy, but we’re making real progress.

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