Legalized Marijuana Grows More Likely

With ballot measures in the District of Columbia, Oregon, Maine, Alaska, and Florida, many of the “reefer referendums” stand a good chance at passing today, increasing the number of states where medical and recreational use of the drug will be legal.

Seems like a good time to look back at what our futurists wrote in 2007 about the likelihood of legalization.

@MikeVidikanFuture in Focus

Excerpts from the full report:

Wildcard—Legalized Marijuana; Changing Values and Lenient LawsDr Brainfish

Key findings
• In World 1 nations, publics are increasingly accepting of marijuana use.
• Marijuana already has a large market: 10% of Americans smoke regularly.
• Legalized marijuana could become a significant leisure product.

In World 1 nations, publics are increasingly accepting of marijuana use. While the majority of people in World 1 believe marijuana use should be illegal, a growing minority see it as merely a lifestyle choice.1 In certain countries such as Canada, most people support legalizing marijuana.2 Laws in EU countries have started to reflect this shift, with some 10 countries decriminalizing or moving to decriminalize marijuana possession. In the US, 12 states have legalized medical marijuana and six have passed measures decriminalizing marijuana use in some way.3

Organizations that advocate legalization of marijuana would like to see marijuana use regulated like alcohol and tobacco.4 In the Netherlands, where the sale of marijuana is legalized in small amounts; approximately 5% of the population uses marijuana, half the rate in the US.5 Advocates argue that legalized marijuana will lead to less frequent, more responsible use. Opposition to legalization is strong in some places. Those opposed see marijuana as a gateway drug, though few studies back this assertion.6

Legalization of marijuana would allow legitimate businesses to sell marijuana in a regulated setting. Products associated with marijuana would also be marketable.

• Nearly 25 million Americans smoke marijuana regularly, making it the most commonly used illicit drug in the US.7
• In the US, non-seniors tend to be far more accepting of marijuana use. About half of all boomers have tried it at some point.8 Young Americans are more likely to support legalization.9
• Three-quarters of the US public are said to accept medical marijuana use, suggesting potential acceptance of recreational use.10
• Some European countries have moved to non-enforcement of marijuana laws.
• Proponents of legalization argue that by some measures, such as violence, dangerous behavior, and health impacts, marijuana is milder in its effects than alcohol.11
• Most Americans reportedly favor no jail time for marijuana users.12

• The US Congress hasn’t passed any laws decriminalizing marijuana for medical or any other use.13
• There is strong opposition to decriminalization in many places.
• Marijuana is often seen as a “gateway drug” leading to harder drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.
• Some fear that decriminalization will increase usage among teenagers.14
• Opinion in World 1 countries varies substantially. Countries that wish to liberalize their marijuana laws will face pressure from more conservative countries, as is already happening between the US and Canada.
• Long-term or heavy marijuana use may be proven to have significant adverse health effects.

• There could be a severe backlash from opponents of the decriminalization of marijuana; they would at the least call for strict regulation of sale and consumption.
• If marijuana were decriminalized, the market for marijuana might change, as those drawn to the drug’s illegality might no longer be as interested. Marijuana could lose its “cool factor.”
• Criminal organizations that rely on marijuana trafficking for profit would have to shift their attentions elsewhere. Some marijuana-growing regions would no longer be suitable for illicit drug agriculture, though producers might turn to synthetic illegal drugs instead.
• Legalized marijuana could inspire increased use. About 10% of Americans are regular marijuana users, while approximately 25% of Americans are regular alcohol drinkers or cigarette smokers.15 Marijuana use could reach the level of cigarette and alcohol use, making it a significant leisure activity.
• The aging boomers who enjoyed marijuana in their youth could become a large market for the product.



  1. Eurobarometer 66: First Results, European Commission, Autumn 2006, 44,; Joseph Carroll, “Who Supports Marijuana Legalization?” Gallup Poll, November 1, 2005, viewed at Common Sense for Drug Policy,
  2. Daniel Savas, “Canadian Attitudes toward Decriminalizing Marijuana Use: What Surveys Show,” Fraser Institute, viewed July 2007,
  3. “FAQs,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, viewed June 2007,
  4. “FAQs,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, viewed June 2007,
  5. Manja Abraham, Hendrein Kall, and Peter Cohen, “Licit and Illicit Drug Use in Amsterdam, 1987 to 2001,” 2003,
  6. “Marijuana,” Drug Enforcement Administration, viewed June 2007,; Helen Phillips and Graham Lawton, “Drugs: The Intoxication Instinct,” New Scientist, November 13, 2004.
  7. “Marijuana,” Office of National Drug Control Policy, viewed June 2007,
  8. Susan Mitchell, American Generations, New Strategist Publications, Ithaca, New York, 2000, 139.
  9. Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee, “Young Americans Are Leaning Left, New Poll Finds,” New York Times, June 27, 2007,
  10. “Medical Marijuana,” Drug Policy Alliance, April 10, 2006,; “FAQs,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, viewed June 2007,
  11. “White House Anti-Drug Plan Unveiled,” Associated Press, February 8, 2006,
  12. “FAQs,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, viewed June 2007,
  13. “FAQs,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, viewed June 2007,
  14. “Marijuana,” Drug Enforcement Administration, viewed June 2007,
  15. John Fetto, “Baser Instincts—Survey on Seven Sins,” American Demographics,, June 1, 2003.

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