First off, happy 4/20 from Marijuana Politics! It is almost hard to remember that 4/20 or 4:20 or 420 was a secret among the cannabis community. Today, with polling numbers over 50% and a multitude of media outlets providing sensible to positive coverage of marijuana, all things cannabis, including our “secret” stoner holiday has gone mainstream.
The amount of mainstream press has been rather mind boggling today, and this list is probably just the tip of the iceberg: Fortune and Forbes ran stories on cannabis today, MSNBC’s Meet the Press had a segment on “National Weed Day,” ABC News covered the formation of the Minority Cannabis Business Association and Congressman Earl Blumenauer is even marking the holiday, asking for $4.20 donation to the “Earl Cannabis Fund” to help support his political efforts to legalize cannabis across the nation. And of course, #Happy420 has been trending on social media. It used to be huge news for the cannabis community when a major media outlet or politician mentioned anything reasonable about marijuana; now, it is hard to keep up with all of the attention. The embrace among mainstream entities isn’t just anecdotal either, as polling backs us up, with yet another landmark survey released on April 20th:
According to a new CBS News poll, 56 percent of Americans support the legalization of the drug, up three points from 53 percent. More Americans admit to have tried marijuana too — with 51 percent saying they have tried the drug — up from 43 percent last year.
The steady growth in support for marijuana legalization implicates a shift in public opinion on the drug over the last three decades. According to the poll, only 27 percent of the population supported legalizing marijuana in 1979. Numbers didn’t begin to tip in the favor of marijuana legalization until after 2010, with favor percentages breaking into the slight majority between 2012 and 2015.
Among demographics, younger Americans are the most supportive, with 71 percent of people under 35 voting in favor of legalization, according to the poll. Only 31 percent of Americans 65 and older supported legal marijuana use.
The business angle of marijuana legalization certainly makes headlines and has helped make inroads with voters and politicians, but the cannabis community has always been about freedom first and foremost and compassion for our patients, so it is imperative that the community holds onto its true values. Unfortunately, too many states and localities, even in those with progressive marijuana laws, are imposing barriers that prevent small home cultivation, for personal or even medical use. Thankfully, many members of our community are organizing and speaking out.
We’ll be covering the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference this weekend, and when you see attendees and listen to speakers at such a conference, it is clear that the cannabis industry has support across many demographics, and isn’t a niche business any longer. What you will also see at the OMBC, and at cannabis events across the nation, are many people who are fighting to keep marijuana business opportunities accessible to mom-and-pops and ensure that patients have safe access to a safe medicine.
The mainstreaming of marijuana is an overall positive, as it will lead to fewer nonviolent people in prison, more patients with safe access and a better prioritization of our law enforcement resources. But mainstream society poses obstacles and problems as well as big-moneyed interests seek to use their money for financial gain, potentially not caring about those that will still end up in handcuffs for violating a relatively minor regulation or the patient that can no longer afford their medicine. However, the cannabis community at large has proven to be compassionate and resourceful, meeting obstacles and finding ways to advance the goals of protecting people from prison and taking care of patients. This 4/20, it is good to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also to think about how we maintain the soul of the cannabis community as move into mainstream society.