My whole family knows that I work for the Drug Policy Alliance and that my job means advocating for the removal of criminal penalties for drug use. Marijuana is often a topic of conversation at our family dinners, so since voters in Colorado and Washington approved marijuana legalization measures on Election Day, I know I should be ready to talk about it again this Thanksgiving.
If the conversation at your Thanksgiving dinner gets boring, you should feel comfortable bringing up marijuana legalization. It's been all over the news since Election Day and public opinion about marijuana legalization is changing rapidly -- from 36 percent in favor and 60 percent opposed in 2006 to 50 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed as of 2011. That's a 28 point swing in just five years. Your family may be more supportive than you think.
Here are five useful talking points for your dinner table conversation about marijuana:
- As our executive director Ethan Nadelmann points out, "It would be a mistake to call these ballot initiative victories 'pro-pot.' Most of those who voted in favor don't use marijuana... What moved them was the realization that it made more sense to regulate, tax and control marijuana than to keep wasting money and resources trying to enforce an unenforceable prohibition."
- The passage of these initiatives only marks the beginning of a long fight ahead. We are bound to see some sort of response from the federal government. For example, the feds' ongoing war on medical marijuana dispensaries quietly continues to threaten patient access. There is a long fight ahead defending and implementing these measures.
- Marijuana arrests are the driving force of the drug war -- they make up half of the more than 1.5 million annual arrests for drugs. Legalizing marijuana means freeing up resources so law enforcement officials can focus on serious and violent crimes.
- High school seniors continuously report that they find it easier to acquire marijuana than alcohol. Why? People who sell beer are forced to ask for proper identification but the illicit market doesn't force people who sell drugs to ask their customers for I.D. Regulating marijuana will help ensure that only adults are able to legally purchase marijuana, making it more difficult to wind up in the hands of young people.
- This is the same way alcohol Prohibition came to an end -- seeing the incredible increases in violence and corruption after pushing alcohol into the illicit market, states experimented with new laws repealing prohibition and ultimately led to the repeal of federal Prohibition.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect about the past, but it's also an important time to discuss the future. Use this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to hear how your family feels about the war on drugs.
Derek Rosenfeld is internet communications associate for the Drug Policy Alliance.
This piece originally appeared on the DPA Blog: http://www.drugpolicy.org/blog/marijuana-conversation-thanksgiving-dinner