Seventy percent of Americans agree: Smoking marijuana does not make you an immoral person. Only 28% think smoking pot is morally unacceptable.
That’s according to a Gallup Poll released June 23 on the moral acceptability of 21 specific behaviors. “Smoking marijuana” was the sixth most morally acceptable behavior on the list, a single percentage point behind “gambling” but 16 percentage points behind “drinking alcohol,” which was deemed morally acceptable by 86% of those surveyed and morally unacceptable by 12%.
Alcohol finished in second place. First place went to “birth control,” which was found morally acceptable by 90% of those surveyed.
Smoking pot finished slightly ahead of “gay or lesbian relations,” 66% morally acceptable, and far ahead of “pornography,” deemed morally acceptable by just 36% and morally unacceptable by 61%.
The most morally unacceptable behavior on the list was “married men and women having an affair.” Only 9% found adultery morally acceptable, versus 89% that found it morally unacceptable.
Gallup noted that marijuana’s moral acceptability has jumped 5 percentage points since 2018, when 65% of those surveyed were morally cool with smoking pot.
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The police reform movement sparked by the death of George Floyd has given a new boost to marijuana legalization efforts in the Virginia and Georgia legislatures.
In Virginia, the 23-member Virginia Legislative Black Caucus plans to introduce a bill to fully legalize marijuana during the special session Gov. Ralph Northam called for August.
The caucus also plans to introduce bills calling for automatic expungement of past marijuana convictions, a ban on no-knock searches, and a requirement that the state’s courts publish racial data on people charged with low-level offenses.
The Virginia legislature passed a pot decriminalization bill during its regular session earlier this year. The decrim also authorized a study of full legalization.
The sponsor of the decriminalization bill, Democratic State Senator Adam Ebbin, who isn’t a member of the Black Caucus, has separately announced that he favors passing full legalization at the special session.
“It is time for action to reform Virginia’s policing practices and continue the crucial work of deconstructing systemic racism,” he tweeted a couple of weeks ago. “We can’t wait until January to pass meaningful reforms.”
Northam, who took the lead in passage of the decrim bill (he had made the issue part of his successful gubernatorial campaign in 2017), has not yet backed the Black Caucus’ proposal.
However, a spokesman for the governor gave a temporizing statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Governor Northam is proud to stand with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in their push for systemic criminal justice and police reform, and looks forward to reviewing specific legislation.”
A poll taken last September for the University of Mary Washington found 61% of Virginians favored recreational marijuana legalization. Profiles in courage ain’t exactly Gov. Ralph’s thing.
In Georgia, Democratic lawmakers included a somewhat flaccid decriminalization provision in a broader police reform bill. The provision would make possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $300. Possession of half- to two-ounces of pot would carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine, or up to a year of community service.
Cynical question: If the measure passes, which race’s offenders are most likely to get the year of community service and which are most likely to get the year in the stir? Anyone care to bet?
Still the proposal is progress of a sort. And the fact that marijuana legalization is getting rolled into broader law enforcement reform measures is a big deal by any measure.
The war on drugs generally and the war on marijuana in particular has done enormous violence to Black America for more than a century. Ending both probably would be the most immediate and significant step that could be taken toward ending systemic racism in the American criminal justice system.