For the first time ever, a majority of Republicans support legalizing weed: 51 percent, a startling nine-point leap since just last year, according to Gallup. Overall support for legalized marijuana has hit 64 percent, an all-time, er, high. This represents, along with tolerance for interracial and gay relationships, one of the great reversals of public sentiment of my lifetime. Despite the pop-cultural image of a stoner 1970s, legalizing weed was never a popular idea with the public in the long-haired era. Support was at 12 percent when Gallup began asking the question in 1969 and never topped 28 percent in the 1970s before receding slightly in the Reagan era. Since the late 1990s, support has been on almost uninterrupted steady climb.
national review endorsed legalization back in 1996, 18 years before the editorial page of the New York Times did so, declaring, “The War on Drugs Is Lost.” Certainly the pot wars are winding down, and I can picture our libertarian friends at Reason spraying champagne all over the office at the news. But here’s where my libertarian instincts collide with my conservative ones: while I endorse the idea that consenting adults should enjoy wide latitude to do whatever they want, provided they do no harm to others, I have serious reservations about what happens to a post-industrial economy with a sizable welfare state when a drug whose most notorious effect is shiftlessness becomes as easily available as beer. I don’t think there is any going back, though. Marijuana is here to stay.