Megan McArdle, in the Atlantic, follows up on a conversation (across different blogs) by Andrew Sullivan, Tyler Cowen, Kevin Drum and Ilya Somin regarding whether changing attitudes as people age means that marijuana legalization is doomed. Will Pot Become Legal?
Kevin Drum: I know this won’t be much solace to everyone who worked on Prop 19, but…..this isn’t so bad, really. Given the automatic headwind of getting people to vote Yes on anything, the additional headwind of a big Republican turnout, plus the general nervousness that middle class people have about drugs, a loss this small is actually sort of encouraging. All we need to turn this around in a few years is for 4% of voters to change their minds.
Tyler Cowen: I don’t see marijuana climbing the legalization hill, if it can’t make it through current-day California. We’re seeing the high water mark for pot, as aging demographics do not favor the idea.
Andrew Sullivan: That assumes that today’s younger anti-prohibition generation will get pro-prohibition as they age. But is that true? Maybe having kids changes things, but my experience of ageing boomers is that they’re not anti-pot at all.
Ilya Somin: My tentative conclusion is that it’s probably more of a generational effect. This is not just a difference between the very young and the rest. Rather, each successive age group is much more pro-legalization than those older than them. Even 50â€“64 year olds were 12 points more favorable to Prop 19 than the over-65s.
Megan McArdle: In my experience, the big dividing line is having kids. […]
Before the pot-smoking parents start crawling out of the woodwork to tell me that I’m totally wrong, that there are lots of parents who support legal marijuana–I’m not saying this happens to every single person who has a kid. But in my experience, as the kids approach the teenage years, a lot of parents do suddenly realize they aren’t that interested in legal marijuana any more, and also, that totally unjust 21-year-old drinking age is probably a very good idea. […]
Maybe we have reached the high-water mark of this sort of personal liberty. As the baby boomers age, they will be less interested in directly exercising their right to smoke pot, which means that even if they still support legalization, they will be less motivated on the issue. […]
There’s no particular reason to think that marijuana legalization belongs to the select few notions that actually live to become settled institutions.
It’s a good discussion, and I think a combination of factors are involved here. Yes, as Megan indicates, some people become mommy-and-daddy monsters when they have kids, and it distorts their previous views on just about everything. And I agree with Ilya that generational factors are clearly at play in political views that carry through life.
One thing missing from this discussion is that we, as a people, are getting smarter (or at least better informed). Because of the efforts of groups like LEAP and SSDP and NORML and SAFER and DPA and Stop the Drug War and MPP, and this blog, and all of you, we’re beginning to actually counter the decades of government propaganda and lies.
While there will still be an aging factor, each successive generation knows more of the truth, and is therefore more likely to support reform.
Sure, many parents will still put their concern about the safety of their children ahead of their previous interests in personal liberty and pot-smoking, but now more and more they’ll realize that ending prohibition is what’s needed to safeguard their young.
Legalization is inevitable in becoming a settled institution, not because a majority of the population will necessarily decide they want to be able to smoke pot, but because the alternative is too destructive to society, and we’ll be there to educate the population so they know that truth.