Monday, June 05, 2006

Who favors making marijuana legal? Some readers have suggested that being in favor of legalizing MJ is a conservative position. It certainly is a libertarian one, but let's look and see what kind of people believe this way. Let's begin with political orientation:

Percent in favor of MJ legalization

Extremely liberal 64.2%
Extremely conservative 19.2

Sociologically speaking, it is clearly a liberal position. But I wanted to make a sketch of the pro-legalization camp. Here's a list:

U.S. total in favor: 34.8%

18-30 year-olds 43.4
Graduate degree 44.3
Never attends church 52.7
Pacific region 42.9
Russian ethnic group 50.0

And poor minority groups were most against it:

Blacks 26.3%
Mexicans 25.9
Puerto Ricans 23.7

So the GSS indicates that the people who want marijuana to be legalized the most are young, educated, secular whites, especially those who are very liberal. By contrast, three-quarters of people from poor, less educated minority groups are against it. Perhaps they have seen the costs of abuse most closely, or are more comfortable with criminalizing undesirable behaviors.


  1. The Superfluous Man11:02 PM

    As I said before, the poorer ethnic groups favor government where they have failed. Blacks and Mexicans are said to vote more socially conservative, and yet they have the highest illegitmacy rates, while Jews, with their stable families, vote socially liberal. And each position is seemingly rational - said liberals can enjoy liberty responsibly, while the others mentioned don't. People respond to their failures by outsourcing them to the state. Interesting article here

    Your first suggestion seems more of an effect than a cause. As for the second, do blacks and Mexicans favor tough crime policies (outside of drugs, for murder, rape, etc.)?

  2. Anonymous8:10 AM

    Superfluous Man is so right.
    Right before election day in 2004 I was sign waving for Bush/Cheney and struck up a conversation with a Libertarian office seeker in our county. We both were extremely far to the right on spending issues, but I told him, with sadness, that I had finally reached the conclusion that poorer people weren't brainwashed/mislead/duped into voting for Democrats, they really want higher spending! Blacks especially make the judgement call that they need a redistribution of funds towards themselves rather than government getting out of the way to make it easier for them to start businesses, etc.
    To drive the point home, I montioned to yet another black person driving by us and directed rude remarks my way. (Contrary to the prevailing notion on the blogosphere that the Kos Kids are the most repugnant and hate filled liberals, I got a very rude wake up call and found that the they have NOTHING on Democratic blacks)
    It is true of social issues as well, but that all of those become so moot to the degree that 92% of blacks voted Democrat in 2004 suggests that Blacks REALLY, really want socialistic government. I honestly believe that if communism was viable, they would choose it.

  3. Sounds like the parenting styles percolating up to the group level -- poor minority parents tend to be more authoritarian, while well-to-do white liberals tend to be more authoritative or even permissive. Crucially, that's in response to the mean diffs in their kids' behavior -- a hell-raiser will provoke authoritarian parenting, while an Even Steven will elicit less cop-on-the-beat parenting.

    Smoking pot won't totally ruin the lives of rich whites, but not so for poor minorities. So, it makes sense that the latter would be more up in arms over legalizing pot.

  4. I'm completely unsurprised that your sketch of the pro-legalization camp shows that:

    * Disproportionate number of graduate degreed, pacific region (Asian?) and Russian ethnic support "legalization." Aren't all those groups more likely to have a higher IQ? (I assume majority of graduate degrees are law, MBAs or Medical-related.)

    * "Poor minority groups" - are most against. Aren't blacks and Mexicans frequently highlighted as more likely to have a lower IQ than not?

    I don't want to come out and say that the drug warriors are stupid - I think many of them are intelligent, passionate, trying to make the world a better place. But they're wrong. The drug policies that have developed in America over the last 50 years are the greatest social policy failure in our history.

  5. The Superfluous Man5:13 PM

    anonymous, your comment ties well into the previous post about black men and conspiracy theories. If they hold such theories, they may never be able to have a proper, limited government in any country, whether racially mixed or not. Party elites can repress somewhat this behavior, as seems the case in South Africa.

    Agnostic, nationalize your point and you realize that despots are somewhat justifiable, in that they are a rational response to chaos (if only they can maintain order). "Every nation has the government it deserves." Or as Tocqueville said, "Laws are always unstable unless they are founded on the manners of a nation; and manners are the only durable and resisting power in a people." (Virtue is more apt than manners. Instead, I left it unaltered from Wikiquote.)

    Compost Books,
    Saying that the other side is dumber than your side proves nothing. You could point to Jews, the highest IQ group, and say look, liberalism is right because they favor it. Groups and individuals can have irrational biases that favor falsities, or just different moral preferences (meaning they aren't wrong but choose differently, by say, choosing economic equity over wealth).

    And for the record, I think saying that blacks vote according to their class interest is wrong - economic freedom in the long run makes nearly everyone richer.

  6. "Smoking pot won't totally ruin the lives of rich whites"

    I read once that people who smoked pot when they were teenagers are actually better adjusted as adults.

    Now, I wonder if the GSS asks if the respondents ever smoked pot? Then Ron could determine if smoking pot as a teenager has any adverse consequences.

  7. half sigma: I know that adolescent pot use is strongly correlated with various forms of delinquency, and I'm pretty sure it's associated with poorer academic achievement. I will look for more data, but these behaviors do not point to a bright future.

  8. Vol-in-Law2:06 AM

    "Saying that the other side is dumber than your side proves nothing."

    This is a very important point - many of the worst ideas and policies are instituted by the most intelligent people! A good point Murray/Hernstein make is that policies instituted by intelligent people, for intelligent people, can be disastrous when applied across the population. They use the example of the US tax code, but legalising marijuana might well be another example. Less intelligent people may well have a much better idea what's good for _them_ than do a hyper-intelligent elite divorced from the reality of how much of the population lives.

  9. "I know that adolescent pot use is strongly correlated with various forms of delinquency, and I'm pretty sure it's associated with poorer academic achievement."

    Correlation doesn't prove causation. I'd say that kids who do poorly in school and have other behavior issues are less likely to be deterred by the "just say no" message. "Good kids" who do what the authorities tell them to do don't do marijauna because they are "good kids."

    So this effect really needs to be separated out from the other data using multiple regression analysis.

    Being too much of a "good two shoes" is also a bad thing and such people may have a difficult time handling the gray areas of society and achieve less in life. Which is why it makes sense that kids who do marijuana, but don't otherwise have any other behavioral problems, are more likely to be more successful later in life.

  10. It's not so much that legalizing marijuana is a good idea as that keeping it illegal is a bad one. Intelligent people have an easier time seeing the obvious downside to drug abuse, but are also sophisticated enough to wrap their minds around the simple facts that the expensive drug war does very little to stop abuse, criminalizes a form of mental illness and creates an ongoing assault on everyone's civil rights.

    I think smarter people tend to ask questions, and I've never encountered a supporter of the drug war willing to do that.

    I stand by what I said earlier - it doesn't surprise me that people who have statistically lower IQs are statistically more likely to support drug prohibition. It's an anti-intellectual position. There are other anti-intellectual positions, like some degree of opposition to abortion, that appeal to a majority of people (including myself) on what I believe is a deep evolutionary level. I believe abortion should largely be illegal, but I don't have any really logical reason for it - it just feels right. Perhaps opposition to marijuana is one of these issues, but I doubt it - I can't think of any evolutionary reason humans would embrace alcohol but not marijuana. It's a societal/cultural construct. On the other hand, opposition to the destruction of unborn humans makes a great deal of evolutionary sense.

    In the end, we are probably wired up to do what the bigger monkeys tell us to do (within reason), and this is why you have irrational beliefs like "Marijuana bad, booze good."

  11. Anonymous2:58 AM

    Isn't it possible that some members of poor minority groups are against it because of economic self-interest? The majority of people who sell drugs do so because they feel they cannot participate in the legitimate economy. If marijuana became legitimate, wouldn't their income stream vanish?


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