What happened to public support for marijuana?

I wasn’t around in the 70s, so I have no first-hand knowledge of the subject… but what I’ve heard is that around 1977-1983, public support for legalization/use of marijuana was far higher than it is today. Jimmy Carter favored decriminalization. The reactions I’ve seen to “That 70s Show” are another clue - “Ha ha, their mom thought the bag was full of of oregano. There sure was a lot of pot smoking back in those days.”

Today, as evidenced by threads like this one, the situation is quite different. Even though there seems to be a lot of support online, in the real world you’re screwed if you even mention your belief that smoking marijuana on the weekend might not be harmful. A presidential candidate who supported legalization would have no chance of winning - look at Nader and Browne.

What happened to change public opinion so much?

Mods, I’m hoping this question has a factual answer, but feel free to move it if another forum is more appropriate.

It was a victim of the Reagan-era “War on Drugs.”

Crime rose steadily through much of that period, and one accepted explanation for crime was the need for drug abusers to finance their habits. Then cocaine (originally treated as a rather benign drug) picked up a lot of press regarding its nastier side effects and addictiveness. Shortly after that, crack was developed as a way to deliver cocaine more easily than as a powder and there were, originally, lurid tales that crack could cause total and irretrievable addiction with only one or two hits.

The rush was on in the legislatures and Congress to save America from drugs. When the basketball player Len Bias died of a cocaine and alcohol while celebrating a March Madness victory, the impetus was provided to simply pass laws regardless of reason or logic. (For example, Bias died of powdered cocaine, but his death was used to justify making the penalties for crack ten times as heavy as those for powder.) The propaganda and advertising that accompanied that fever simply overwhelmed any other voices, creating an impression that has continued to this day. (E.g., the fears of crack addiction potency were disproved in less than a year from the passing of the law, but no one in Congress has had the guts to get the laws evened out in the last 16 years.)

Marijuana simply got caught up in the movement.

There are various movements out there to change things, from the marijuana-specific advocacy of NORML to the more general Libertarian approach that drug laws are, in general, unnecessarily intrusive. However, the press and propaganda was so thorough through the late 1980s and early 1990s that no such efforts have made any headway.

Additionally, crime rates did begin to fall shortly after the draconian drug laws were passed. While many people have pointed out that the number of males aged 15 - 35 (the segment of the population most inclined to commit crimes of property) have fallen throughout that same period and others have noted that the economy was on a steady upward cycle throughout that same period (and crime tends to rise and fall with the fall and rise of the econmy), opponents of drug legalization can point to imprisoned drug users and falling crime rates more easily than drug decriminalization advocates can point to correspondences in the economy or the age of potential criminals. It “feels” right to many people that we have locked up more people and we have less crime. And, of course, decriminalization advocates have rarely been able to put together coherent and simply presented rebuttals to those claims–either because the material is too complex for sound bite news segents, or because the anti-drug hardliners were correct.

In this environment, separating attitudes toward marijuana from attitudes toward cocaine, heroin, or numerous other drugs is simply harder to advocate.

I was a student of the University of Illinois in 1980, during Reagan’s campaign and election. There’s was also a “coattail” effect in student government, and a conservative student government swept in.

In Urbana, there was a annual student party called “Hash Wednesday” where THOUSANDS of students would sit have a pot-smoking picnic in the midst of the campus grounds. The campus police prevented sudents from bringing in alcohol, but didn’t otherwise interfere.

In 1981 (maybe 82), on a rainy Hash Wednesday with only a few hundred participants, the police raided it and made hundreds of arrests.

No more Hash Wednesdays. Ever, as far as I know.

The public didn’t change. The government did. It started getting draconian, and most folks decided public drug use wasn’t worth the risks, and either stopped or went into the closet.

Well, the former supporters probably forgot about the issue, what with the memory loss caused by overindulgence :smiley:

Maybe not so screwed. Last time I checked, Gary Johnson was still governor of New Mexico.

Yeah, I kinda remember that.

SEX DRUGS and ROCK N ROLL

What happened to priorities in this country?

The public got smarter?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! :smiley:

Uh… are you serious?

The public got more selfish. It would actually take me a few minutes to come up with more than a handful of people I know- teens and adults- who don’t smoke up once in a while (or, in some cases, once an hour). Smokers I know include police officers, teachers, my bosses, and various other authority figures who don’t think twice about the possibilty of being caught. They know there’s a don’t ask don’t tell type situation in many parts of Canada, and, well, those who do get arrested/jailed just aren’t their problem.

In the U.S., however, there is a strong tendency toward a policy of rigorous prosecution. It varies by state, locale, and circumstances, but it is, as noted in the OP, no longer a matter of being left alone if one does not get rambunctious.

(Some day I may have to go where it is legal and try the stuff, considering how much silliness has been invested in suppressing or promoting it.)

Too many marijuana-influenced train accidents didn’t help the cause either.

Marijuana-related train accidents?

Yes, there have been a few accidents related to marijuana.

Don’t do it, Tom! It’s not worth the trouble.

(Trust me, children. I’ve done more than most groups of 10 users ever have. I was an outright criminal through high school. Um, until I got caught and ended up being…corrected.)

But upon further review (having been through the looking glass) I’ve decided Harlan Ellison’s line of, “Hey, it’s may not be a great life but it’s my life.” applies. I don’t particularly alter my mood with anything (I can’t remember the last time I had some wine.) at this point.

Maybe it’s not so much the hard drug laws as much as just changed public opinion. A few years ago, people smoked cigarettes everywhere in the US. Now, the number of people, along with the number of places where it is allowed, have dropped drastically. Presumably this is from an increase in public awareness that smoking almost definetly causes lung cancer. Perhaps people now equate smoking cigarettes with smoking pot and think that it is less safe. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that scientists were pretty sure that at the least pot has as many carcinogens as cigarettes.)
With the country shunning cigarette smoking so completely, don’t you think it would be seen as a step back to most people to legalize another thing to smoke? Sure, pot may make you feel great, or allow you to think more clearly (I wouldn’t know), but there is also that very real possibility that the smoke causes cancer, which the public knows.
I know that lots of you guys on this board feel that pot smoking is a rather benign activitiy, and as such wouldn’t it be better to compare it to its nearest cousin, cigarette smoking, rather than to the other, harder drugs?
Just my $ .02.

I think support is still around, but I just don’t use the words marijuana or pot anymore. These days, it’s all coded lingo, so you won’t get caught talking about it. Find those who know theses special words & you’ll find the support of what might be called ‘not legal use’.

As for legal I had seen plenty of open public support & sales of pot in SC, California, where it was/is useful for medical uses. Those legal medical pot stores were far more open than anything I have ever seen. On the news I could see the prices they were charging for medical pot & the green buds & all, with no cops to be found. THis was a couple years ago I think.

I think support is still around, but I just don’t use the words marijuana or pot anymore. These days, it’s all coded lingo, so you won’t get caught talking about it. Find those who know theses special words & you’ll find the support of what might be called ‘not legal use’.

As for legal I had seen plenty of open public support & sales of pot in SC, California, where it was/is useful for medical uses. Those legal medical pot stores were far more open than anything I have ever seen. On the news I could see the prices they were charging for medical pot & the green buds & all, with no cops to be found. THis was a couple years ago I think.

My 2 cents worth says that society in general has become less tolerant, less liberal over the years. I use that term - liberal - in the dictionary sense of generous, open-handed, broad-minded, etc. I don’t know that Reaganism generated that tone, or was a response to it, but as an older guy, I can tell you that the average guy on the street seems much more self-protective, much more fearful, and simply not as open and giving as once seemed to be the accepted way. There are a lot more people out there willing (eager) to tell you how to run your life, what you’ve said that you shouldn’t have, who you’ve insulted, etc. The average interaction on the street appears to be less cordial. There’s a mean-spiritedness that has encroached and infiltrated into society. My own personal prejudice tells me that this is also connected to a Republicanism that has led to the veneration of corporations, less regard toward the little guy, a culture of greed and profit over many of the other values. Now, granted, this is a pretty grim view of the world, and I don’t see darkness and void everywhere, but I do feel the country has shifted. In all of this, there’s not a lot of room for new ideas, openness to other ways of seeing things, and respect for individualism (which was at the core of a lot of the 60’s imperatives - including a budding respect for grass). And I do think that’s part of the answer to the question. xo

Interesting. I see this in the article:

I wasn’t aware there were tests to measure whether someone is currently under the influence of marijuana. Did the authorities know for certain that the crewmen were stoned when the accident occurred, or only that they had smoked within the previous month?

Come to south africa guys. Dope is not legal here but the cops dont care unless you are some kind opf big time dealer. If you arent then you get a fine and a night in jail, max.

Also a kilogram of weed will cost around $20 what with the exchange rate and all.

Seriously tho I reckon people are way to harsh on weed. I dont smoke myself (because smoking of any kind hurts my kung-fu :slight_smile: but all (let me say that again: ALL) of my friends do. In fact in SA it is really difficult to find anyone 16-35 who doesn’t smoke ganj.
People down here smoke joints like cigarettes.

So come on over man, the water may be cold but the climate is perfect.