These arguments for legal pot are swaying U.S. voters

(Credit: Joe Mazzola/Flickr)

Four more US states legalized recreational marijuana in November, nearly doubling the number of states to do so. But arguments for and against this trend continue.

Arguments that support legalization resonate most strongly with Americans, a new study suggests.

More than 60 percent of people surveyed say they support legalization because they agree with arguments saying it would increase tax revenues, create a profitable new industry, reduce prison crowding, and lower the cost of law enforcement.

Fewer people agree with anti-legalization arguments that emphasize the damage the policy would have on public health—such as more car accidents, negative impacts on the health of young people, an expansion of the marijuana industry, an increase in crime, and a threat to moral values.

“The pro arguments are really practical: ‘Give us money and jobs. Keep our prison from being overcrowded, make law enforcement’s job easier,'” says Jeff Niederdeppe, associate professor of communication in Cornell University.

“And the con arguments are a little more ideological: ‘This is going to lead to big industry and crime and undermine the fundamental values that make America great.'”

Fewer overdose deaths in states with legal marijuana

The researchers emphasize they are advocating neither for nor against legalization. Rather, their study offers a snapshot of public opinion at a time when legalization debates are part of the public debate, Niederdeppe says.

“We’d better understand where the public stands on this issue if we want to develop policies that are responsive to democratic values and what people are concerned about. Understanding where the public sees benefit and where it is nervous can help regulators emphasize those things people agree are important.”

The study appears in the journal Preventive Medicine. Emma McGinty at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is the lead author.

Source: Cornell University