By Sabrina Fendrick, NORML Women's Alliance
As our nation edges cautiously toward majority support for marijuana legalization, the millennial generation is leading the way more than any other demographic in history.
Our generation has experienced as much or more tragedy than any post-WW II generation with the exception of the baby boomers. The difference is that boomers, who witnessed the assassination of a president, a presidential candidate and a major civil rights activist and who lived through significant social and political upheavals, also saw huge social progress, the evolution of equal rights, greater consumer protection and the end of the Cold War. Despite many bumps along the way, the economy remained intact for that generation, jobs were available and college was still affordable.
Millennials experienced on 9/11, the first major attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor. We've grown up with homeland security threat levels, we've witnessed massacre after massacre in our schools and in public places that used to be considered safe (think Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, the D.C. snipers, Boston, etc). As young adults, we've been confronted with an economy on the verge of collapse, a world plagued by terrorism, an expensive and proliferating drug war, skyrocketing tuition costs and a job market that is barely there. Yet with all of that, we still believe in the glory of the America we were told about growing up. That, "America is the richest, most powerful country in the world, where everyone has the opportunity to make money and achieve the American dream," and despite everything going on now, we believe that it still can.
So why, you wonder, do so many millennials (65% according to the latest Pew Research Poll) support the legalization of marijuana in light of all these other issues? It's because we believe this is a serious national problem with a sensible fix and a positive outcome for everyone.
- We believe that marijuana prohibition negatively affects so many aspects of our society and we believe that reforming this senseless policy will actually help the American people and our economy.
- We've seen the lives of so many of our friends and loved ones destroyed, not by using marijuana, but by the impact of its prohibition.
- We know that the D.A.R.E. program is a joke.
- We know that hundreds of millions of our tax dollars are wasted to support a criminal justice system that must track down, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate and then parole hundreds of thousands of non-violent and otherwise law abiding citizens, who are burdened with criminal records for the rest of their lives.
- We know that our failed, and incredibly expensive war on drugs is destabilizing and corrupting governments south of our border, while enriching brutal drug lords.
- We know that as long as marijuana remains unregulated, it will be far easier for an American child or adolescent to buy pot from a street vendor then it will be for that same child to purchase a beer or buy a pack of cigarettes in a store, where she is required to produce a government-issued ID.
Not only will legalization protect our brothers and sisters from unjust prosecution and a life tainted with a criminal record, it will also generate billions of dollars in federal and state tax revenues, and it will create a whole new industry in the U.S. which means more jobs for Americans. While marijuana represented a symbol of rebellion and counter culture to the boomer generation of the 60s and 70s - today, for millennials, marijuana legalization simply makes good political and economic sense. We made up about 20% of all voters in the last election, and are well on our way to becoming the largest generation in American history. Each year that passes brings millions of new young adults into the voting population. If policy makers don't take note of our growing influence over future elections and begin to support the issues that are important to us, we will vote them out and find ones who do.