By Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of California NORML
A new CBS poll released on 4/20 is the first to show majority female support for marijuana legalization in the US. Though still trailing the 59% of men who are in favor of legalization, 54% of women now say they support it too.
Last year's CBS poll found that only 43% of women were pro-legalization, versus 54% of men, an 11-point gap. This year's poll narrows the gap to 5 points and represents an 11% jump in support from women in only one year's time.
National polls in recent years have shown women's support for legalization as high as 48%, but always trailing men's approval by 8-13 points. Women are also around 15% less likely to admit that they have tried marijuana.
The same is true regionally: in Florida a 2015 Quinnipac poll found again 57% of men supported legalization and only 46% of women did. And if marijuana were to be legalized for recreational use in the state, 70 percent of women said they would 'definitely not use' it, compared to 59 percent of men.
Similarly in Ohio, there was a 12% differential between men at 59% support and women at 47%; and 71 percent of women, and only 57 percent of men, said they would 'definitely not use' legal marijuana.
But now perhaps we have reached a tipping point on women coming over to seeing the light of legalization. When I checked in January of this year, Cal NORML's Twitter followers were 75% male, down from 85% a few months earlier; they're now down to 66% male, a 20% drop in less than 6 months.
One reason for the shift, I think, is the increased number of female leaders at NORML chapters across the country, changing the perception of what a marijuana enthusiast looks like and giving women voters a greater comfort zone to voice their own support. A quick list of those leaders compiled by NORML Outreach Coordinator Kevin Mahmalji are:
- Eleanore Ahrens - Southeast Ohio NORML
- Vera Allen - Minnesota NORML
- Trish Bertrand - Springfield NORML
- Roseann Boffa - Los Angeles NORML
- Cara Bonin - Houston NORML
- Jes Bossems - Jefferson Area, Virginia NORML
- Monica Chavez - New Mexico NORML
- Cynthia Ferguson - Delaware NORML
- Jax Finkle - Texas NORML
- Karen Goldstein - Florida NORML
- Kandice Hawes - Orange County, California NORML
- Laura Judy - National Office
- Jamie Kacz - Kansas City NORML
- Danielle Keane - National Office
- Ellen Komp - California NORML
- Jessica Lee - Nacogdoches NORML
- Jenni Morgan - National Office
- Cher Neufer - Ohio NORML
- Theresa Nightingale - Pittsburgh NORML
- Danica Noble - NORML Women of Washington
- Pam Novy - Virginia NORML
- Jenn Michelle Pedini - Richmond NORML
- Jordan Person - Denver NORML
- Sharron Ravert - Peachtree, Georgia NORML
- Carrie Satterwhite - Wyoming NORML
- Mary Smith - Toledo NORML
- Jessica Struzik - Northern Wisconsin NORML
- Danielle Vitale - O'Brien - Miami Valley, Ohio NORML
- Destiny Young - San Antonio NORML
Women everywhere are getting the message. "It is not as harmful as alcohol ... It also helps medical conditions as a more natural substitute to pharmaceuticals," one 46-year-old woman told Pew pollsters in 2015. "I think crime would be lower if they legalized marijuana," said another woman, aged 62. "It would put the drug dealers out of business."
Campaigns directed at women in states with legalization measures seem to have had an effect. Only 49 percent of women polled in favor of Colorado's 2012 legalization measure, but 53 percent of them voted for it. The majority of women voters in Washington State also voted in favor of that state's measure to legalize.
Many people are aware that women helped bring about alcohol prohibition in 1919. What many don't know is that women were also instrumental in repealing prohibition, notably Pauline Sabin, the Republican socialite for whom NORML's award recognizing women's leadership is named. It seems that women are now also key in bringing about marijuana legalization.