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Demographics, Gender and The War for Legalization

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    Demographics, Gender and The War for Legalization

    Demographics, Gender and The War for Legalization

    A new Gallup poll of American’s opinions towards the legalization of marijuana was released earlier this week. The last Gallup poll on the subject was four years ago, and the results of the new poll show a continued narrowing of opinion in the nation. The trends match those obtained in other polls as well, so that the overall trend is consistent with the trends observed in other polls.

    Figure 1 shows the trend line obtained from compiling all previous Gallup polls on the subject produced by Gallup.

    Figure 1

    Figure 2 shows the trend line which was produced earlier this year by Nate Silver at Silver produced his chart by compiling all available data from all national opinion polls on the subject, not just Gallup polls.

    Figure 2

    As you can see, the latest Gallup poll is on track with the trend lines previously observed from all other sources. While this is a guarantee of nothing in terms of future opinion, it is highly persuasive evidence that we are very near the tipping point. Sometime in the next three to five years, the majority of Americans are very likely to favour the legalization of marijuana. Yes, really.

    That in itself is extremely comforting for activists in the marijuana movement. To understand what has happened and what is likely to happen in the near future, the trend lines and underlying data indicate three “environmental factors” which are in play. These are the factors influencing American opinion on the legalization of marijuana.

    The Legislative Environment

    The first environmental factor at work is the normalization of marijuana as medicine in the legal/political sphere. The debate over medical marijuana (“MMJ”), the surrounding discussion in the media and the passage of laws permitting MMJ on the state level track the growing trend in favour of legalization. That does not necessarily mean that MMJ is “causing” a shift in opinion in favour of legalization. To a great degree, it may only be a reflecting the underlying favourable opinion towards marijuana use, generally.

    Whether MMJ is a cause or merely an effect is highly debatable; however, what is certain is that there is a direct observable correlation between the two.

    As you can see above in Figure 1, the groundswell of opinion in favor of legalization begins to take a sharp increase nationally in 1996, with the passage of Prop 215 in California. The trend lines have been narrowing at an ever increasing rate over the past thirteen years. The more states that pass their own MMJ laws, the more pronounced the shift of opinion in favour of legalization of marijuana, generally.

    This statistical and consistent trend explains the increasing desperation of prohibitionists in opposing MMJ laws from state to state, the phenomenon of prohibitionists choosing to throw sincere MMJ patients under the bus, as it were. The prohibitionists can see the trend as clearly as we can – and they know full well that the legalization movement is tracking, to a certain degree, the expansion of MMJ laws at the state level. They can feel it in their bones and see it in the graphs. They are going to fight MMJ county by county, state by state. And this past week also saw the prohibitionists lose their greatest ally, the White House, which has announced a new policy of official detente with MMJ states. Should that policy remain in place for the next seven years, it will be too late to reverse given the statistical analysis which follows below.

    The Gender Gap

    The second environmental factor revealed in the most recent Gallup poll was quite unexpected. Up until 2009, there have been three primary indicators of an individual’s opinion towards legalization of marijuana. Those who self-identify as conservatives are overwhelmingly likely to oppose legalization (the “Political Gap”). This is followed by the “Generation Gap”. The older a person is, the more likely that person is to oppose legalization. The last co-factor is the “Gender Gap”. Females are historically far more likely to oppose legalization than males in the United States. This is not a new societal trend, either. Those with an eye on history will recall that it was women who were most in favour of the prohibition of alcohol. Women’s Temperance Leagues were on the front lines of Alcohol Prohibition throughout the nineteenth century as agitators and into the twentieth century. By the late 20s and early 30s, when women stopped favouring the prohibition of alcohol in vastly disproportionate numbers, the Prohibition era came to an end.

    This Gender Gap concerning prohibition of marijuana has been attributed to a similar Gender Gap which exists in marijuana use, generally. Throughout the past 40 years for which data is available, females have been significantly less likely than males to admit to have ever tried using marijuana – even once. Until just this week, this factor was believed to explain the greater resistance among women to legalization.

    The data underlying this week’s new Gallup Poll throws 40 years of polling data into doubt. I would caution that one poll is weak evidence to predict a new opinion model which sharply breaks from a consistently observable historical trend. Nevertheless, this new data may belie a new paradigm shift towards legalization of marijuana in America. If confirmed in subsequent polls, this data would indicate that, at the least, those who favor legalization are not only those who have personal experience with marijuana on a large demographic basis.

    Figure 3 compares the response of those in favour of legalization in America based upon gender from the poll taken in 2005 compared to that taken in 2009. The data indicates that in 2009, for the first time, men are only slightly more likely to favour legalization than women.

    Figure 3

    Under closer analysis, this data is even more remarkable than might be first thought. Women outnumber men in America, by slightly less than one percent. This demographic difference between the genders emerges by virtue of the fact that women tend to live longer than men do. The extra proportion of living women in America is demographically explained by a significantly larger number of elderly women than elderly men. Moreover, these elderly women are just the sort of people who are more likely, because of their age, to oppose legalization. If the new Gallup poll is an accurate reflection of national opinion at the gender level -- and I must caution again that one poll does not a trend make – then this poll demonstrates that the Gender Gap has completely vanished in the past four years.

    Why this is so is uncertain, but this data indicates that to some extent, previously held opinions are now undergoing a significant paradigm shift. The data is now demonstrating a tendency of moving away from simply expressing a favorable opinion on legalization based upon the person’s own previous personal use of marijuana.

    In short, even people who have never used marijuana in the past are beginning to favour its legalization in statistically significant numbers. This data is strongly indicative that the legalization movement has now broken through and the movement towards majority opinion has now gathered an inevitable momentum. Marijuana Legalization even at the federal level would appear to be, literally, unstoppable. It is only a matter of time.

    While you may have heard this before, the demographic data indicates that the Promised Land is much, much closer than you might think.

    The Last Bastion of the Prohibitionists: The Generation Gap

    Of all correlating factors concerning attitudes and opinions towards the legalization of marijuana, to date, no single factor is as important as previous use of marijuana during some point in time in that person’s life.

    Typically, the time where people first try marijuana is in their youth. In the Western world, marijuana use peaks at age 20-21. In the USA, the person most likely to have tried marijuana is a white male, aged 20, who is attending (and, *ahem*, about to drop out of, college). That fundamental demographic profile of the average marijuana experimenter is consistently observable over the past five decades. As the person ages, marijuana use peaks at age 20-21, and tracks consistently downwards throughout their 20s and into their thirties, where at about age 35 or so, use takes another significant dip downwards and begins to trail off into very small numbers in terms of annual use – let alone monthly or weekly usage. This data is confirmed in the 2007 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    Figure 4

    Despite the consistently observable tailing off of marijuana use as a person gets older following peak usage at age 21, favourable opinions towards the legalization of marijuana continue throughout that person’s lifetime. While we cannot be sure of all factors in play, we can expect that arguments warning against marijuana premised on fears of user violence, criminal tendencies among users, dire promises of “marijuana addiction”, together with predictions of general “societal doom” are very unlikely to be persuasive among those who have direct personal experience with marijuana. In short Reefer Madness-style arguments do not work on those who have had direct personal experience with marijuana use.

    Which brings us back to age. Reefer Madness arguments, summed up by the term “FEAR” tracks very closely with personal exposure to marijuana. And therein lies the single greatest factor which explains the narrowing of political opinion in the United States concerning legalization of marijuana, and, I would argue, why legalization is inevitable.

    Figure 5 tells the tale. The dark green line at the top of the graph indicates the total percentage of Americans at any particular age who have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime. This graph was also compiled by Nate Silver at and is premised upon data from 2007, so it is a little out of date and the shift coming on the right hand side of the age graph is now that much closer. I might add that the 2009 Gallup poll indicates a modest increase among current seniors in favour of legalization, as we might expect. In short, the demographic train is rolling down the tracks, as expected.

    Figure 5

    Correcting for the two year progress in Figure 5 (which was an accurate picture for the year 2007) that small shift indicates that in 2009, the total number of those seniors in America who are in their mid-to-late sixties and who have tried marijuana at least once is 25%.

    Look at Figure 6. The number of Americans 65 and older who are in favour of legalization of marijuana in 2009? The recent Gallup poll tells the tale: the number in support in that age category is ... 28%.

    Figure 6

    While that is not necessarily a direct cause and effect, this is highly persuasive of an extremely strong and direct correlation. The correlation is, in fact, nearly 1.0. – as strong a correlation as is mathematically possible to obtain in a statistical analysis.

    As you will also observe above in Figure 5 (again, 2007 numbers), by the time you advance the curve to correct for those who in 2009 are 58 years old in America, 50% of those people have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime. And that personal exposure isn’t even the peak of the demographics in terms of past marijuana usage. That peak will follow in the next 10-12 years’ time. Those who attended high school in America in the late 1970s and early 1980s have personal experience with marijuana approaching just under 60% -- not the 25% reflected now among seniors.

    So what does all this demographics and polling analysis mean? It means that around the year 2012-2013, the percentage of Americans who will favour legalization of marijuana will tip the scale in favour of marijuana legalization as national numbers go above 50% for the first time nationally. As the population ages further, and those opposed to marijuana legalization in the largest numbers die off, seniors who have personal experience with marijuana will also creep to above 50% -- and then even higher.

    Based on the current trends and demographics concerning direct experience of personal use, by the year 2022-23, those in favour of the legalization of marijuana will not simply be 50% of the voting population – it will by that time have increased to 60% a supermajority.

    What we are seeing in the ballot initiatives in California towards legalization generally, and in other states towards medical marijuana, is strong evidence of a rising and irresistible demographic tide. Assuming there is not some extremely significant event that will alter public opinion, the fight for legalization of marijuana in America has approached the end game. We are about ten to twelve years away from general legalization at the state and federal level. That rising demographic tide floats all boats, cuts across both genders and the generation gap – and all that is left in opposition are general political /social attitudes. The social arguments of the Prohibitionists premised upon FEAR cannot hope to prevail when the large majority of the voters they seek to persuade have direct personal experience that contradicts those very arguments.

    In conclusion, the 2009 Gallup poll is an indication that the forces necessary to begin the Invasion of Normandy are now gathering. Those forces will hit the shores and tip over the 50% mark in about four years time or possibly less. From there, it’s a steady march through the Ardennes, across the Rhine and into Germany throughout the Teen decade of the 21st Century.

    The shooting War for the Legalization of Marijuana is about to be begin – and it starts in November 2010 in California. Barring some monumental event that changes attitudes in an unpredictable way, the outcome of the War for Legalization is certain to result in victory for the marijuana movement.

    “You hear that Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability.”
    --Agent Smith
    Proof that Legalization is Certain within 10 years

    "The dark green line at the top of the graph indicates the total percentage of Americans at any particular age who have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime."

    How could this value decrease? Someone who is 60 and hasnt smoked in 20 years has still tried it in their lifetime. . .

    The rest of the numbers are encouraging though.


      Originally posted by ANgrychair View Post
      "The dark green line at the top of the graph indicates the total percentage of Americans at any particular age who have tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime."

      How could this value decrease? Someone who is 60 and hasnt smoked in 20 years has still tried it in their lifetime. . .

      The line is not measuring an individual, it is measuring marijuana usage in the entire population distribution of the USA, by age, at a particular point in time, specifically, 2007.

      In 2007, of all of the people who were at that time 72 years old in the USA, about 8.5 % of them have tried marijuana at one point in their lifetime. They graduated high school in about the year 1953. It was a different world for them.

      Ten years later, it was a dramatically different world for those who graduated high school in 1963.

      Such that, in 2007, about 40% of Americans who were aged 58 (graduated high school in 1967) had tried Marijuana at least once in their lives. Those people are now aged 60. The % of them who have tried marijuana has not gone down (if anything, it may have only very slightly increased). What's changed is the people who were older and never tried marijuana: some of them died. And a helluva lot more of them are about to die in the next ten years, too.

      As time progresses and the current population ages, the people on the far right end of that graph vanish off of it and are removed from the pool of overall voters who express an opinion on legalization -- for the very good reason that they are dead. Death is 100 % certain, 20 times out of 20.

      We think of seniors as being opposed to marijuana legalization. They are not. Or rather, they are not opposed to legalization because they have magically turned 65. They are opposed to legalization because they never had any experience with marijuana in their own personal lives, and so are persuaded by the FEAR arguments of the prohibitionists.

      So the advancing demographics in the age graph assist us in three ways:

      1) the people who have the least experience with marijuana -- and are the most opposed to it right now - seniors - are dying. Their opposition to legalization of marijuana ends;

      2) dying seniors are in turn replaced by aging baby boomers, starting in two years time as they turn 65. Those people have experienced marijuana in far greater numbers in their youth (you know Woodstock - the 60s?) and are as a group far more supportive of legalization. They are also, as seniors, the demographic that is most likely to vote, so politicians pay far closer attention to them; and,

      3) - the people streaming IN to that line who are now in the early and mid-teens are also trying marijuana in significantly large numbers.

      The end result is that the overall percentage of Americans who have tried marijuana and are supportive of legalization increases over time, as those who are, as a group, most opposed to legalization DIE from heart disease, cancer and old age. They are simply replaced by an overall population that is more accepting of marijuana.

      Through death, the generation gap narrows, allowing the overall population of the USA in favor of legalization to tip the scales to 50/50 in about the year 2012/2013.

      That overall number in favor of legalization should increase to 60% in favor by 2022/23, all other things being equal. By that time, those people in the age group above who never tried marijuana are more likely to be dead.

      In short: The old bastard who shouts at you to keep off of his lawn and stay off your own grass too? Eventually, he dies and his wife does too, a few years later. When that happens enough times, we win.

      Clearer now?
      Proof that Legalization is Certain within 10 years


        No, not clear. I understand its not for 1 individual. Let us examine two specific points: 24 years of age and 33 years of age. I think it is safe to assume 9% of 24 year olds dont die before reaching 33. My guestimation would be 2%-3% die from 24 to 33.
        Any disagreement?

        It looks like roughly 57% of people 24 years of age have tried cannabis.
        It also appears that 48% of people 33 years of age have tried cannabis.

        If those 9% didn't die in 9 years, what happened?

        Edit: Wait i think i get it. . .lol. The people who were 30 during 2007 were late teen during the Regan administration "Just say No" BS, so use while they were 18-22 was down. Now they they are 30 many of them still have not tried it. Gotcha. Thanks for your time.
        Last edited by ANgrychair; 10-26-2009, 01:33. Reason: things and stuff


          Originally posted by ANgrychair View Post
          No, not clear.

          It looks like roughly 57% of people 24 years of age have tried cannabis.

          It also appears that 48% of people 33 years of age have tried cannabis.

          If those 9% didn't die in 9 years, what happened?
          What happened is that they were born at different times, and so had different social pressures and opportunities to experiment with drugs in their late teens and early 20s.

          Again, this is a picture of the entire population of the USA in 2007. A SPECIFIC point in time.

          In 2007, the people who were THEN 24 were born in 1983. The people who were THEN 33 were born in 1974.

          They experienced different exposure to marijuana as they were growing up in high school and entered into their 20s. Introduction to marijuana during teenage years and in our 20s changes according to the times. Demographically, it's different at different points in time. Exposure to marijuana as a coming of age phenomenon was culturally at its highest for those who graduated high school in the late 70s.

          That's why the graph shows that the people with the highest exposure to marijuana were, in 2007, aged 48. They are now 50 years old. They graduated high school 32 years ago in or around 1977-78. Culturally, they had the highest exposure to marijuana of any group at any point in time in the history or the USA, until very recently, when the kids who graduated in or about 2002 had a similarly high exposure to marijuana.

          Again, the graph is a snapshot in time.
          Proof that Legalization is Certain within 10 years


            Originally posted by ANgrychair View Post
            Edit: Wait i think i get it. . .lol. The people who were 30 during 2007 were late teen during the Regan administration "Just say No" BS, so use while they were 18-22 was down. Now they they are 30 many of them still have not tried it. Gotcha. Thanks for your time.

            Now - again. Look at the numbers. Of those people who are now in their 70s? Only about 1 in 10 of their generation ever tried marijuana. Of COURSE they oppose legalization.

            Now look at the marijuana experience of those who are currently aged 20-55. About half to MORE than half of them tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime.

            It is a HUGE change in personal experience with marijuana in one generation. In less than twenty years, the exposure to marijuana changes from less than one in ten to more than 1 in 2.

            This battle is OVER. In ten to twelve years' time, -- if it takes even that long -- those who have personal experience with marijuana or support legalization will be the supermajority of the population. While not every one of them who has tried marijuana will support legalization, the data indicates that it is a very high correlation. And even among those who have never tried it, many of them have come around (indeed, that's how we get to 60%).

            Those who were born in the Depression era - and before then, the so called Greatest Generation, are at death's door. When enough of them are gone, what's left over is enough to rapidly push legalization easily over the top.

            Legalization may not be a word in Obama's "vocabulary" right now - but that is not likely to be the case in his second term. And it is certain that no matter who wins the Presidency in 2016, he (or she) will be facing an electorate that has a majority viewpoint in favor of legalization.

            Unless there is some great ground shaking event, this is a War we cannot lose. And victory is FAR closer than you think.
            Proof that Legalization is Certain within 10 years


              thanks for the info


                exciting stuff.....good read fatigues....
                "They're aint no party like a Scranton party cuz' a Scranton party don't stop!"


                  good stuff.
                  Grow thread.

                  "I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." -Thomas Jefferson
                  "Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people." -Carl Sagan
                  "When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain."
                  -Napoleon Bonaparte


                    Well done fatigues. Beautiful statistical analysis. But do we really want legalization? All the profits will be squeezed out by new greedy co's., and local and fed govts will regulate and tax it into the stratosphere. Yes, legalization may be probable but we are going to pay for it bigtime! I say decriminalize, release folks who were unjustly & immorally prosecuted, and keep the vultures out.
                    Last edited by Rouge; 10-26-2009, 10:08. Reason: clarification


                      This is very, very well done. I hope you're cross-posting this somewhere else like DailyKos or OpenLeft. Kudos!
                      "Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope." - Freewheelin' Franklin

                      Support the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act
                      Support the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act
                      Support the Truth In Trials Act

                      (my digs)


                        Does anyone really believe this is going anywhere?
                        Tom S.
                        Middle MO


                          2014 is THE year, book it.
                          In full compliance with my state's Constitution and MMJ laws


                            Originally posted by dddownlowww View Post
                            This is very, very well done. I hope you're cross-posting this somewhere else like DailyKos or OpenLeft. Kudos!
                            No, in fairness, most of this was done by Nate Silver six months ago on He crunched the number to get the 2022-2023 60% calculation.

                            What he didn't do was integrate the latest Gallup poll, look at the gender divide, consider the impact of MMJ, or discuss the ballot initiatives.

                            FWIW, I think Nate Silver is dismissive of it even managing legality at 60%. He's a great statistician and a passable policy wonk, but he's just not that informed on MJ politics.

                            And I can tell you, he sure as HELL didn't see the 12 point jump in support from women coming. Nobody saw that coming. It may well be that the reason nobody saw it is that it isn't true: we may be seeing a rogue poll when it comes to gender and Gallup's 2009 data.

                            I tend to think it's mostly a real poll, and that there is something else at work. What, I'm not sure yet. I'm all ears folks.

                            Historically, the whole issue of Women and Prohibition is still an inadequately examined issue. Prohibition of Alcohol was officially commenced in 1919 in the USA, and the vote to women was officially sanctioned at every state level in 1920. This legislative timeline is used principally by many feminists and historians to justify women "dodging the bullet" for the blame for Prohibition.

                            The reality is different. Many US states gave women the right to vote prior to 1919 and everyone in politics saw it coming. The pressure that existing (and future) women voters put upon state governments was very much at the heart of the US Senate's passing of the Eighteenth Amendment during the war and was very much at the heart of its ratification by the states in the following two years.

                            The issue of women and Prohibition is a "blame game" that most modern academics have tried to steer away from. Nevertheless, imo, the blame for Prohibition of Alcohol can - and should -- be laid squarely at the feet of women. There can be little doubt that they were the overwhelming element of the populace that supported Prohibition and that they were the driving force behind the Temperance movement in the USA, Canada and the UK.

                            And when it comes to MJ, until just this week, women appeared to be the ones to mostly "blame" for MJ's Prohibition as well.

                            I also think it will be de facto legalized before 2021. I think the path of least resistance on this is to defer to the States and rechedule MJ off of Schedule 1 by an administrative order. Politically, it's the easiest and safest path and it can be sold to Republicans in the South as a means of "protecting" their populations from legalization at the hands of the liberal states.

                            What it all comes down to is ballot initiatives. If California doesn't screw this up, it's the domino effect. I'm not sure that it WON'T get screwed up though in 2010. Too many initiatives will be bad.

                            We'll see. Whatever the case, the point to take away is that the underlying demographic trends are going to open the door on this one. We just need to be smart about it and force those doors open at the right time -- together.

                            Thanks for the kind words though.
                            Proof that Legalization is Certain within 10 years


                              before 2012 my money is on the mayans each persons wages will be equal to the amount of food he needs