Support for Cannabis Legalization and Medicalization Goes Up… Again!

[DTN] A Gallup Poll released at the end of 2019 reported that 66% of Americans now favor marijuana legalization. That’s up six points in the past two years. Gallup confirmed once again that over 50% of both Democrats and Republicans endorse the legalization of weed. Current support for medical marijuana is even more robust. A 2019 Quinnipiac poll found that a new high – a whopping 93 to 95 % of Americans – now favor legalizing the medical use of cannabis.

Clearly, the chickens are coming home to roost but when they get to the barnyard the farmer still wants to make them to put their peckers in a cup. One would think that with all this legalization and medicalization meshugas going on, the gross weapons of the failed drug war would have fallen from our view; but politics will continue to make that impossible.

After a hundred years of hyperbolic propaganda and outright lies, reasonable people can eye marijuana law reform with suspicion and might worry that legalized weed might make their children less safe. It is demonstrably wrong to say that allowing the over-21 adult use would intrinsically endanger our kids  – in fact, the opposite is true – a reasonable parent who has never smoked a joint in their lives might need to be reassured that legalization or medicalization will not have a negative impact on their kids. Reasonable parents will never surrender unreasonable concerns for their children, and who can blame them?

Driving Under The Influence of Drugs (DUID) is another sticky wicket of cannabis law reform where reasonable people can strongly disagree. Anti-cannabis activists and the drug test industry will always maintain that widespread cannabis legalization really means a host of inexperienced newbie stoners barreling down the nation’s highways, caroming off the guard rails.

That’s not true. With few exceptions, almost everyone who wants to smoke weed is already smoking weed, and they’ve been barreling down the nation’s highways in vast numbers for over a half-century. The truth is much more prosaic.

A pair of DUID studies released in 2017 came to slightly opposite conclusions. One found that legalization led to a small spike in insurance claims for all car crashes in Colorado, Washington and Oregon while another concluded that marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington had no effect on fatal crashes at all. More: a third study that analyzed over a million traffic fatalities nationwide from 1985 through 2014 seemed to show that states with medical marijuana laws are not associated with increased auto fatalities and may, in fact, have fewer fatal accidents.

These different studies study slightly different things so it should come as no surprise when they yield slightly different results. But, truthfully, anti-weed warriors and reformers alike will take the same results no matter what they are and spin them in different directions. All of that adds up to confused parents who may not smoke weed but who does know bullshit when they hear it. Most importantly, they don’t want their kid to get in trouble. We need to get those parents on board if we are ever going to achieve a national referendum for cannabis law reform.

The drug test industrial complex is, by now, a collective American institution comprised of anti-weed warriors, drug test companies, cops and school administrators all of whom seem to agree that the best weapon against the steady encroachment  of weed is a specimen cup. 

Those of us who know better insist that a whiz quiz for weed has no solid base for evidence and offers no proof at all that it works.  After all these years we’re still not sure if drug testing increases productivity or just intimidation. We do know that urinalysis – which still accounts for 90% of workplace drug tests  – does not reliably indicate impairment; but they still do it anyway as if it makes a difference. They do that in support of an existing $5 billion per year drug test industry that is predicted to swell up to $9 billion by 2023. As legalization and medicalization laws kick in, the drug test complex has already shown that it is more than willing to play a little Chicken Little and shout, “The sky is falling!”

Reasonable concerns about teenage drug use and DUID are not going to go away, but the anti-weed warriors will make sure those concerns are unreasonably magnified. Reasonable parents who have never smoked pot will want some kind of assurance that their kids are being protected if the reform community wants their support. And reasonable adults who have never smoked weed will need to be reassured that a baked bunch of newbie stoned drivers aren’t flying down the highways and bouncing off the guardrails, as ridiculous as that sounds.

To answer these concerns the marijuana law reform community will be asked to trade expanded drug testing for their legalized cannabis. New kinds of drug tests –  spit tests and breathalyzers – and suspicion-based testing in schools and the workplace will sound like reasonable answers to reasonable questions. Reformers should be willing to negotiate those points if they are ever going to get the nation jazzed up to legalize weed. But they will need to vigorously resist any version of random, suspicion-less drug testing, be it in our schools, at the workplace and on the road. That’s what the drug test industrial complex wants to promote more than anything because that’s the only way they’re going to hit that $9 billion mark by 2023.

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