Americans find favor in Mary Jane

Half of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana, according to a new Gallup Poll.

The illegal drug is currently allowed for medicinal purposes in 14 states and the District of Columbia but is still considered an illegal substance by the federal government regardless of intended use.

The 50 percent approval jumped 4 percent from last year, making it a record high in the more than 30-year history of the survey.

Data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows 16.7 million Americans over the age of 12 used marijuana at least once during the month prior to being interviews.

Michael O’Hear, associate dean for research and professor of law, said though use has declined since its popular period during the 1970’s, recreational use is still prevalent.

“A great many Americans have at some time tried marijuana or are personally acquainted with someone who has been a user,” O’Hear said.

A student in the College of Nursing, who wished to remain anonymous, said the legalization of marijuana would not create problems within the healthcare  field.

“Even those who are using the drug are using a minimal amount that would not necessarily pose any danger,” the student said. “If we were to legalize it, I don’t think there would be very many issues.”

As a former resident assistant, the student also believes legalizing the drug would cut down on the number of times MPD is called.

“I don’t see the point in calling MPD for marijuana, an illegal drug, when there is illegal (underage) drinking occurring in the next room,” the student said. “If you are going to be arrested or fined for one legal activity, why not another?”

O’Hear said claims regarding the dangers of marijuana do not have as much credibility as before.

“I don’t mean to say that marijuana use is or should be regarded as a good thing,” O’Hear said. “But I suspect that most Americans now recognize that its dangers are not a lot greater than those of other substances whose legality we tolerate, such as alcohol.”

The greatest support for decriminalizing marijuana comes from liberals and people ages 18 to 49, according to the Gallup results gathered from a survey on crime taken Oct. 6-9 of this year.

Support for legalization has been on the rise since 2000, and initiatives for medicinal purposes have gained national attention but have had little success.

California’s Proposition 19 was an attempt to allow the growing, ownership, sale and use of cannabis for people ages 21 and up. Fifty-six percent of voters rejected the proposition last November.

Richard Friman, professor of political science, said the favorable poll numbers would not have an impact on reform of drug laws.

“Federal-level resistance to any sort of legalization remains strong (within the executive and Congress) and is evidenced by federal law enforcement crackdowns against medical marijuana even in states where selective legalization has taken place,” Friman said in an email. “With the 2012 election looming, any stance for an incumbent or candidate that can be portrayed by an opponent as being ‘soft on crime’ would be a liability.”