Nine years ago, voters in Colorado and Washington became the first to approve recreational marijuana, over the objections of top Democrats in those states.
This week, legislators in Democratic-led New York and New Mexico struck deals that will make them the 16th and 17th states to legalize pot. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) even went so far as to call New Mexico’s legislature back into special session to pass the measures this year before she faces voters in her 2022 bid for a second term.
Supporters of legalized recreational marijuana once found it impossible to win support from a legislator willing to stake their career on legalized drug use. Now, measures that were once untouchable are winning bipartisan support.
In a polarized nation, there are few issues on which both the public and their elected leaders have shifted as much as on the question of recreational marijuana. As recently as the Clinton administration, only a quarter of voters backed legal marijuana. Today, more than two-thirds do.
Pollsters say the sea change has been driven by a generational shift in the electorate, as older Americans who grew up before the 1960s and lived through the war on drugs become a shrinking part of the voting base. The baby boom generation does not view marijuana use as harshly as their parents, and millennials and younger generations grew up in a time when marijuana was used for medical reasons.