Most Americans Favor Cannabis Legalization, But Not On Bumper Stickers
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If you want to see the power of peer pressure and potential stigma, look no further than the bumper on the car in front of you. Chances are, it won’t have a bumper sticker calling for the legalization of marijuana.
A new survey shows that many people in the United States still worry a lot about what their neighbors and local police think of them. That’s healthy to a point, especially when trying to protect oneself from unwanted brushes with law enforcement. But when the majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, a naturally grown drug that’s been found to help people manage pain, get better sleep, and safely reduce stress, then it proves the bumper sticker fear is a deeply-rooted stigma.
The survey of 1,195 people, conducted by SafeHome.org, found people would rather have bumper stickers that espoused support or opposition to President Donald Trump, their views on gun ownership, political leanings, and religious affiliations more than support for legal marijuana.
To put it in perspective, 53 percent said they were cool with a bumper sticker showing support or opposition to gun ownership. Only 34 percent felt the same about legalized marijuana. When asked why they wouldn’t display a bumper sticker in support or even opposition to legalized marijuana, those surveyed listed the following reasons.
- It will affect how police see me (59 percent)
- It will affect how other drivers see me (32 percent)
- I don’t care enough about it (31 percent)
That’s different than when people are asked anonymously about their support for marijuana legalization. The most recent Gallup Poll found 66 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, the second year in a row that it reached that number.
Peer pressure and potential stigma lead patients to justify marijuana use.
We live in a time when people consume marijuana and openly show it on social media. That extends to politicians, such as the Oregon congressional candidate who shows herself smoking a joint and the state of her marijuana plants on her Twitter account.
However, studies have shown stigma still exists around the use of medical marijuana. Research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs that involved interviews with medical marijuana patients in California found many patients circumvented their own physicians to obtain a recommendation for using medical marijuana. Also, many “used a host of strategies in order to justify their medical marijuana use to family, friends, and colleagues in order to stave off the potential stigma.”
Perhaps most revealing, almost all patients interviewed “acknowledged the stereotype that patients were viewed by many as simply ‘stoners’ who took advantage of the law.” That sounds more like the 1950s than 2020.
Older Americans seem unconcerned about stigma.
As people age, they tend to care less about peer pressure. That liberating approach to life extends to marijuana use. The numbers show it. For example, a research letter published on JAMA Internal Medicine reported that the use of cannabis by those 65 and older increased from just 0.4 percent in 2006 and 2007 to 2.9 percent in 2015 and 2016.
Doctors have written about seeing it in their own practice, as well. Dr. Peter Grinspoon, writing for Harvard Health Publishing, reported that he is seeing an increase in older patients who want to try cannabis for medical purposes.
He said the patients range from those in their 60s looking to alternatives to manufactured pain medication to those in their 90s trying to get a good night’s sleep who remain “leery of the side effects of traditional sleep medications.”
He said that part of this trend is due to the “decrease in stigma associated with cannabis use.” Another sign that older Americans have moved past concerns about stigma comes from AARP, which represents 38 million people over the age of 50. AARP released a statement in 2019 supporting the use of medical marijuana for seniors if recommended by a physician.