A couple of recent polls seem to show support for legalized recreational pot slipping in Colorado. Never mind that other recent polls show exactly the opposite in a steady or increased support for the experiment, conservative local media–especially in the Colorado Springs area–has latched onto these numbers with glee. The Anschutz-owned Gazette and ABC affiliate KRDO ran headlines like Two Polls Show Support for Legal Marijuana Waning in Colorado, Nationally and Poll: More Than Half of Colorado Voters Disapprove of Recreational Pot.
Let’s put to the side any debate about which numbers are right, and do a little thought experiment. Let’s say that the USA Today and Public Religion Research Institute poll data is right, and Coloradans are growing leery of legalization. Does it actually mean anything?
The general attitude of Americans is relevant here: We are a fickle bunch. This is demonstrated in everything from what we name our children to the food we eat and the music we listen to:
For 15 years–from 1970 through 1984–“Jennifer” was hands down the most popular female name given in this country. Today? “Sophia.” “Jennifer” is pushing the #200 spot. 10 years ago, your average American had never heard of pho or sriracha, and rave culture was a bizarre thing of the past. Now DJs are making more money than rappers and the Electronic Sriracha Music Festival in California’s Bay Area was so popular they had to extend it out a day.
This extends to our politics: Just 23 months ago, Americans reelected Barack Obama by four percentage points–a significant margin in American politics. Yet, 21 months later, a CNN poll shows that–were the election held today–Americans would give his opponent, Mitt Romney, a 9 point victory.
And then there’s gay marriage: The late 90s and early-to-mid 2000s saw a slew of state ballots and constitutional amendments outright banning gay marriage and civil unions. Then, in the late 2000s, we had a change of heart as legislation, amendments, and ballots explicitly approving gay marriage and domestic partnerships swept across the nation. Today, many of those laws passed 10 or 15 years ago banning gay marriage have either been ruled unconstitutional or are under review. Still, a recent Pew poll shows American support for gay marriage slipping again.
Coloradans wouldn’t be good Americans if we didn’t waffle on the crazy decision we made to legalize recreational pot back on that same day we reelected Obama. I obviously haven’t changed my mind, but I can see how people could be second-guessing their vote. Just look at the news: Exploding hash labs, suicide on edibles, emergency room visits by children who accidentally break into their parents’ stash. And nobody likes to learn that only about a quarter of the tax revenue promised to their schools will actually make it.
The fact of the matter, though, is that legalization is working. Total tax revenue–including from medical sales–is sky high, and crime in the Denver area is way down. The nation is looking at our experiment and seeing success. Oregon is set to vote on a legalization bill modeled after our own, and other states are following suit with decriminalization legislation. The federal government is considering reclassifying marijuana from its current “Schedule 1” status. It’s fair to see the recent polls highlighted by conservative publications as a normal and expected reevaluation by the public.
The sky isn’t falling.