A Pro-Democracy Movement: The popularity and coming legalization of cannabis in the US says something good about our democracy

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In the first national poll released since Joe Biden’s inauguration, legalizing cannabis was found to be more popular than other potential presidential policy.

61% of 1,429 US adults surveyed favored the legalization of recreational cannabis. There was significantly less support for a $15 minimum wage, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, or for rejoining the Paris Climate Accords. Even President Biden was less popular than cannabis, coming in at a 49% approval rating.

This strong support for cannabis is similar to a Gallup result released in November (below) that found 68% of Americans favor legalization, more than at any other point in the last 50 years.

This news comes at a time of an unprecedented Congressional push to end cannabis prohibition. For instance, leading senate democrats including majority leader Chuck Schumer just released a joint statement promising comprehensive cannabis reform in the coming weeks.

This convergence of Congressional action and public opinion is rare. We’ve understood for quite sometime that when it comes to government policy, politicians don’t care what the public thinks: when elite preferences and popular preferences are different, the elite almost always win.

But not here and not now. When it comes to legalizing cannabis it appears that the people’s choice will prevail. That’s critical because in an era of very real threats to our democracy, it tells us that the people’s push for legalization is an (all too rare) example of a successful pro-democracy movement.

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