2014 was a magical year.
It was the first time since 1975 that the number of people who supported ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S. was higher than those who didn’t.
So what happened? Ronald Reagan, that’s what.
Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. The guy wasn’t solely responsible for systematically changing the opinions of a large swath of the population.
But it does turn out that the person (or facsimile thereof, depending on the year) sitting in the Oval Office affects marijuana attitudes in the United States.
Are We Merely a Bunch of Lemmings?
Some more than others, certainly. But it’s not as simple as folks just blindly abiding by what the Commander-in-Chief espouses.
Findings from a study published last month in the journal Deviant Behavior indicate that “confidence in the executive branch, fear of crime, and presidential drug rhetoric predict attitudes toward legalization despite controls for other factors such as estimated levels of marijuana use and arrests.”
Presidential drug rhetoric. That was certainly a big one for President Reagan. Remember the whole “Just Say No” campaign?
While the findings of the study showed that lowest support for legalization was during President Reagan’s service, support faltered during President Bush the Elder’s reign as well (1989-1993).
This was during the the crack-cocaine drug panic though – which some argue was a result of President Reagan’s anti-drug rhetoric. Whatever the case, the odds of the public favoring legalization decreased by about 27% during that time.
Enter President Clinton in 1993, and there was a steady increase in attitudes favoring legalization. No big surprise.
All of this begs the question – just how much influence did or do they have?
The Research on Marijuana Attitudes
The study’s authors set out to find how often presidents talked about cannabis and illicit drugs during the years spanning from 1972 – 2016.
They used data from the General Social Survey to gauge Americans’ opinions on legalizing cannabis during those years, including State of the Union addresses and executive orders.
Working with a number of variables and control measures, they conducted a multi-level model analysis in order to consider how context changed over time.
Researchers found that “each annual percent increase in State of the Union words about drugs predicts a decreased odds of favoring legalization of about 6%.”
Plus, feeling good about who’s at the helm – regardless of what he (or someday she) is saying – also affects attitudes on legalizing marijuana. The study found that the odds of their supporting legalization actually fell about 29% when they were confident in the goings on in the executive branch.
Interestingly enough though, they found that when a Republican is president, each increase in confidence leads to decreased odds of favoring legalization of around 36%.
But when there’s a Democrat in the office, the decreased odds were reduced to 24%.
How Does the Current President Rate?
That depends on whom you ask and in regards to what. But we aren’t opening that can of worms.
In terms of attitudes toward cannabis though, President Trump has been relatively hands-off and has maintained that marijuana policy is a states issue. Which doesn’t bode well for ending federal prohibition while he’s in office. Or on the golf course.
But whatever the case, general attitudes have varied quite a bit over time. And so has the presidential rhetoric about marijuana. That’s unlikely to change.
Plus, there’s a good chance that folks are finally questioning the gateway-drug-devil’s-weed-reefer-madness fear-mongering connected with marijuana for so long.
And that’s bound to change attitudes as well – regardless of who’s in office.
Some Attitudes Never Change
As cannabis marketing specialists, we maintain a steady and solid pro-cannabis stance. Our marijuana attitudes are unwavering.
And we work hard to ensure the success of cannabis businesses. Contact us today to see what we can do for you.