Majority of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana, Are Really Stressed Out

DUDE! For the first time in U.S. history, the majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana — 50% are for it and 43% are against it. In the mid-nineties, when we all had less back pain, better appetites and only mild-to-moderate anxiety, 73 percent of Americans opposed legalization. It’s safe to say that 50% of Americans have clearly not seen this hard-hitting Anti-Marijuana PSA: But seriously folks, in addition to obviously proving that D.A.R.E failed us all, there’s many other things suggested by this sea change. Gallup has been tracking the issue for 40 years and even five years ago there was a “healthy majority against legalization,” says talking points memo — this is the first time it’s even been CLOSE. Gallup says:

If this current trend on legalizing marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation’s laws into compliance with the people’s wishes.”

Why is this happening? In September 2009, New York Magazine did a feature story which asked if “at long last, the Great Pot Moment is upon us”? The article declares: “Pot smoking simply does not carry the stigma it once did, even in the straightest society” and it proves it, too. But the article also explains how in New York City, marijuana possession arrests are conducted with outrageous racial bias. You need to know this stuff.


Why Do a Majority of Americans Want Pot Legalized Now?

1. It Already Is

marijuana dispensary in los angeles, where medicinal marijuana is legal

Sixteen states already legalize some kind of medical marijuana situation, and so far, the world hasn’t burst into flames and re-absorbed itself into the atmosphere as a giant starry fireball (although if you consumed any psychedelic banana bread at Dinah Shore Weekend 2010, you might have seen a fireball or three). However, according to the federally-enforced Controlled Substances Act, you cannot cultivate marijuana. You cannot sell marijuana. Anywhere. And when federal laws conflict with state or local laws, the federal laws always win.

However, in 2009, the Obama Administration declared that it had better things to do than arrest people for selling weed. But then, a few weeks ago for seemingly no reason at all, an absurdly aggressive crackdown on pot dispensaries in California began — 45 California dispensaries were told they needed to vacate in 45 days OR ELSE. San Francisco Dems are calling on the feds to cut this shit out. Regardless, it’s making a mess of the state and its one billion dollar marijuana business (a well-needed boom as California’s really pushing it lately).

2. The Youngs

If you were born after 1980, your parents probably were a lot more liberal about weed than your parents’ parents, theorizes talking points memo. But now they’re dying and can no longer participate in Gallup Polls.

3. It’s The Economy, Stupid

Even during recessions, people still buy liquor and they find money for marijuana, too, if that’s what tokes their boat. The War on Drugs, as far as marijuana is concerned, is a black hole of wasted lives and resources, and do we want underground criminal economies employing only those gutsy or foolish enough to risk their freedom in order to sell? No, we want jobs for American taxpayers! We want our government to focus on drugs that are actually dangerous, not weed. Here, Alternet has a list of 15 jobs a Marijuana industry could create. If Prop 19 — which called for complete legalization — had passed in California, experts estimated the state’s annual 8.6-million pound, $14 billion pot crop could bring $3 billion to $4 billon in revenue for the state.

4. The National Mood

People are stressed out! People are stressed the fuck out. When times are tough, we tend to go a bit easier on behaviors we typically frown upon — people look a lot differently at their peers “eschewing the perils of the actual world in favor of smoking pot ” than they do at their peers “devastated by the perils of the actual world and therefore smoking pot.”

5. Celebrity Endorsements

In February when Lady Gaga told the world that she smoked pot while writing music, Mary Elizabeth Williams of wrote The Rise of the Celebrity Stoner, about the increasing dialogue around marijuana in the media and how that was de-stigmatizing the drug for regular people. From the opening paragraph:

“… get this: Sometimes famous people just smoke a little weed and they don’t even develop a substance abuse problem or go to jail. Crazier still, this happens all the time to regular folks as well.”

She cites the Showtime series “Weeds” and the “Harold and Kumar” franchise as well as quoting many celebrities who’ve publicly expressed affinity for the drug — Sarah Silverman, Woody Harrelson, Jack Black, Zach Galifianakis, Roseanne Barr and others. Kevin Smith recently told MTV “I became a stoner because of Seth Rogen” and, as aforementioned, Lady Gaga told Anderson Cooper “I smoke a lot of pot when I write music. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it for ’60 Minutes.’ I drink a lot of whiskey and I smoke weed when I write.” She concludes:

Maybe [Rogen, Gaga and Smith] speaking up and even joking about their marijuana use won’t effect a sea change in the drug laws. But their candor might at least open the door for others to come out of the closet on the subject too, and eliminate some of the stigma and misconceptions about pot smokers. It’s not all “Dark Side of the Moon” and Ben & Jerrys binges, you Internet scolds and DEA officials, you. As with many other things in life, it’s silly to have so much secrecy and denial attached to something so many people do. As Gaga explained Sunday night, it’s not about getting high; it’s just about elevating the conversation. “I don’t want to encourage kids to do drugs,” she said. “But what artists do wrong is they lie, and I don’t lie.” And you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate someone being refreshingly blunt.

Many civillians, like Lady Gaga, find pot helps them to be more artistic, alert and creative, which  means celebrities are just like us.

6. Growing Body of Medical Research/Public Awareness

In addition to all the individual states successfully medicating with marijuana, a lot more research is coming out about the drug’s potential benefits. With the country increasingly uninsured and skeptical of Big Pharma, weed is becoming more of a viable option for many patients.

Also, hopefully, drug educators are becoming a little more honest about weed — really when I found out they were lying about weed, I assumed they were also lying about ecstasy and acid but actually they mostly told the truth about ecstasy and acid. They should tell the truth about weed so we trust them about the other stuff!

7. The President Inhaled

Everyone flipped out that Bill Clinton had smoked weed, but nobody seems remotely concerned that President Obama admitted to it — “I inhaled frequently. That was the point.” Mayor Bloomberg eagerly confessed to having smoked weed and liked it. So clearly it doesn’t exactly prevent you from succeeding in life. 8. National Enlightenment Re: Racism and Mandatory Minimums

AHAHAHAHAHA just kidding America isn’t gonna suddenly wake up enlightened ! But just so you know, in New York City, 430,000 people age 16 and up have been arrested for marijuana possession since 1997. Over 40,000 were arrested in 2008. More than 80 percent of those arrested on pot charges are black or Hispanic. White people smoke a lot of pot.

Here’s an infographic from Chicago:

click to enlarge (via

Anyhow, in California, where I live, I have a card that enables me to buy marijuana legally at a dispensary. The people who work there are nice and you wait in a nice line with other nice people who talk about the product like they’re selling different kinds of apples. The experience is approximately a thousand times better than getting a delivery service in Manhattan.

So to me this trend of acceptance seems to be one of those things that I thought was just happening to the people around me but is actually happening to all the people around everybody at the same time. I’m not endorsing marijuana, I think it can enable apathy, fuck with your short-term memory, and dulls the pain of problems you should probably work on instead of numbing them. However, I’ve got plenty of negative things to say about alcohol, too, but I don’t think it’s bad for everybody and I don’t think making it illegal is ever the answer. Ultimately, perhaps the most devastating potential affect of pot upon a person is that it encourages sitting on your couch, watching television and eating Doritos for many hours, which might be the real reason things are turning around — when the only thing you can afford to watch is your own television set, you’re gonna wanna jazz that shit up, you know? I mean, have you ever seen Pretty Little Liars ON WEED?!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3200 articles for us.


  1. homosexuality getting in the way of conception? psh-smoke some weed! babies for you! that commercial makes it seem like some sort of half baked fertility drug.

    • That reminds me of a story I read in some middle school health class magazine about a girl who was date-raped because she was slipped ecstasy at a party. Correct me if I’m wrong, partiers, but doesn’t E generally make you MORE alert and awake? I thought the whole danger from it is that you would be SO full of energy that you would ignore signals about when you need to sleep, drink or eat.

      It’s really insulting to the very real problem that is drug-assisted rape that anti-drug PSAs have started using rape as a consequence of pretty much every drug they don’t want kids to take. It makes kids a lot less likely to take them seriously when they’re talking about actual date-rape drugs. And that’s not even going to the victim-blaming that often comes standard-issue with these PSAs.

      • oh and the girl in the article got pregnant from it, too. sorry, I forgot to explain how it was related.

  2. I’ve been a member of NORML for a while and I recently joined the women’s chapter here in Austin. We now have the NORML truth car, it looks like a police cruiser but has NORML decals all over it and a green light bar on top.

    Now I want to text my friend and buy a bag. Just kidding. Mostly.

    And I HAVE watched Pretty Little Liars on weed. It’s awesome.

  3. Interesting poll.

    I think we will see a sweeping Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage before we see widespread legalized pot. It’s been decriminalized in many places, but there’s still a stigma about it being a drug to get high and it’s not exactly the same sort of right as marrying the person you love.

    The economy stinks and people have got to see the economic boost + tax revenue we could generate from mass produced marijuana would be great. I’m pretty sure a contingent of gay marriage supporters in NY saw dollar signs in their eyes at the prospects of gay couples flocking to NY to wed. I think we’ll see pot continue to be decriminalized in the states will voters will allow it, but I don’t think there will ever be any sort of countrywide legal consensus like we will inevitably have on gay rights.

    I won’t lie. I bought a couple issues of High Times and maybe got involved in a bit of horticulture in my past. But that’s all behind me now. I can’t think of anything that has ever made me lazier or less productive than pot, but also less stressed and hotheaded. (I would like to see pot and alcohol reversed since alcohol actually kills people and smoking pot only exacerbates alcohol’s effects, but that’s obviously not realistic.) I think adults can make their own decisions and that includes whether or not they want to smoke or eat a natural plant that grows in the earth. And this comes from someone who generally supports laws against/restricting other drugs and cigarettes.

  4. People who want to smoke pot already do. We Americans have such little respect for the govment right now that this law would not stop people from smoking pot. Nothing is going to change except that we won’t be so angry at the government.

    • Not true. I am too scared to try pot because I don’t want to get arrested, also the whole dealer thing seems pretty sketch. So, yeah, I know I’m a paranoid chicken, but I’m still not smoking weed because of the law. I want to work with children, so I can’t have a criminal record or I’d have to find a new career.

    • ALSO ALSO ALSO the thing is that of “we americans” — some of us are going to get arrested for it and some of us aren’t, as i reference in the article. These laws are very selectively enforced with an extreme racial bias, and that’s not cool

  5. How will this help with sourcing? I’ve heard from a number of people based in South America who would like the Northern Americans to stop smoking pot mostly because the money goes towards funding violent drug cartels and it’s making life miserable for them. Are there enough local sources to satisfy the demand?

    • I believe it would actually help lower the drug cartels. I don’t think it will fully eliminate it until a good several decades pass with legalization and the drug cartels feel a serious decline in sells. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately, and even read some academic journals over it. I actually think it could help bring more jobs to grow, sell, such and really allow cops to focus on other crap. I like your question though, because at that point would the demand increase even more also causing more difficulties meeting the demands. Also, would people stop growing pot and selling it for street value or will people actually go and buy it for whatever price the government would place on it?

      • where does this idea of big government prices come from? when it comes to quality/quantity, the weed i get at the dispensary is a much better deal than anything i’ve bought from a dealer here or in ny. and you can pick what kind, there’s all these edibles and stuff.

        we can grow it here, that’s part of what makes it such a cash cow. the dispensary i go to works with licensed state vendors, most dispensaries grow it themselves, i believe?

        right now it’s hard b/c the feds can still raid & fuck up your business even though it’s legal in the state.

        • Under state law, the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop. 215) patients and their “primary caregivers” are protected from criminal prosecution under state law for personal possession and cultivation of marijuana, but NOT for distribution or sale to others. State law was expanded in 2004 by a new law, Senate Bill 420 (Health & Safety Code 11362.7-8). Among other things, SB 420 authorized patient “cooperatives” or “collectives” to grow, distribute and/or sell medical marijuana on a non-profit basis to their members. It also allows duly designated primary caregivers who consistently attend to patients’ needs to charge for their labor and services in providing marijuana.

          I love that the ’04 law is SB 420.

          • yes the place i go i had to join, it’s a collective i think, it’s called a “patients group”

    • I know we could do it. The “All American” infrastructure is already in place. TRUST ME, it’ll be done.

      • Coolies. I’m not from/in the US and I don’t consume pot – asides from that one time I ate some banana bread not knowing it was spiked and went into ER with a seriously terrible reaction, oy – so I wasn’t sure how it’d work infrastructure-wise. I hope that if/when pot gets legalised there’ll be efforts towards fair trade, ethical farming – seems like the people who’d be good at that are already there anyhow.

    • I don’t see why local sources wouldn’t step in if the market became legal. Sure, there may be an initial lag between pot being legal to consume and the existence of adequate legal sources…but this would most likely be a transition period.

  6. Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.
    If ordinary Americans could grow a little marijuana in their own back yards, it would be about as valuable as home-grown tomatoes. Let’s put the criminals out of business and get them out of our neighborhoods. Let’s let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards.
    You can email your Congressperson and Senators at to discuss HR 2306, the bill that would repeal Federal prohibition.
    And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!

  7. Who ever put Marijuana on this ad instead of Cigs and Alcohol are ignorant fools! We have put up with enough and are not going to take this from you money mongering liars anymore! Time for the real new instead of OBAMA THE LIAR! This is his new name pass it on!

    • I think the way anti-drug PSAs inflate the risks of marijuana actually hurts their cause, and in a way that really hurts everyone. Because once you’ve been exposed as a liar once, it makes what you say on everything else that much more suspect. But the anti-drug people are RIGHT when it comes to other drugs – like cocaine, heroin, meth, etc. – that actually can kill you or ruin your life. The problem is, once someone sees a PSA implying that a few puffs from a bowl will flush their life down the drain, and then they meet a pot smoker who has their shit together or they try it themselves and they’re okay, they’re going to think “Hmmm, I wonder if they’re lying about the other stuff, too…”

  8. I dont even smoke pot (rarely i’ll take a hit ^_^), but honestly, they should just legalize it. The negatives effects that were distributed have mainly been debunked. It would be great for the economy. I’ve never seen negative effects, in fact, I’ve seen some positive effects. It’s good for the economy, it chills people out, it could create jobs (i’m bout to graduate…I need a freakin job), those stupid charges that overcrowd our jails (which brings more stress, cuz that’s taxpayers’ dollars), yeah…where’s the’s negatives again.

    I remember San Francisco. Walked up and down Haight and Asbury and I could have sworn weed was legal. Came back to Alabama and remembered…oh yeah. No it’s not.

  9. Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body. Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws. I drew up a very cool poster featuring Uncle Willie Nelson and The Teapot Party for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at Drop in and let me know what you think!

  10. I absolutely advocate the legalization of pot now that my stress levels have increased (mostly thanks to the fucking government ruining my life)

Comments are closed.