So you rang in the New Year with a bottle of bubbly?  How old school!  My fellow Coloradans were lining up for “freedom day” sales of the first legal marijuana in the nation.  While it certainly was unprecedented, the normalcy seemed to be what struck the international news media as well as casual observers.  The scene was more akin to the orderly lines outside an Apple store prior to a new iphone release.  It almost seemed – dare I say it? – downright acceptable.

In fact, Americans’ views of smoking marijuana have changed substantially according to a recent CNN survey.  As the following graph depicts, views of the use of marijuana today are nearly a mirror image of where they stood in a 1987 poll:

Perceptions of Morality of “Smoking Marijuana”

“I’m going to read you a list of actions. For each, please tell me whether you think this is something you consider to be morally wrong, or not morally wrong.”

 chart 1

Americans’ acceptance of pot is not the only former taboo that has gained acceptance over the last 26 years.  The same national survey demonstrates that views of marijuana use only barely eclipse other dramatic changes:

Proportion of Americans Stating the Behavior is Morally Wrong

table 1

Our polling indicates that these shifts in views of some of these traditional social issues happening concurrently in the aftermath of the financial collapse and prolonged recession has led to a very different agenda for the nation’s leaders.  As Americans told us in the April 2013 NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, more than ever they see economic and financial pressures as more personal concerns:

 table 2

And in fact, economics may end up driving other states to follow Colorado and Washington’s lead on marijuana sales.  Those economic dynamics include the need to find alternative sources of revenue which voters will accept at the state and local level, and the potential of “pot tourism.”    Of course, any number of down-sides and societal ills – from health impacts to increased use among young people – could cause this trend to go up in smoke.

Public Opinion Strategies