Are Parents Just Saying No to Marijuana Legalization?


Among other disappointments for liberals last Tuesday was the failure of California’s Proposition 19, which would have rewritten state law to allow local jurisdictions the right to regulate and tax the use of marijuana for personal consumption.

The measure, which was defeated 54 to 46 percent, had seemed destined to lose after polls found its position slipping in the final few months of the campaign.

Still, the defeat was a bitter one for advocates of liberalized drug laws, particularly since liberals had a strong night in California over all, re-electing Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, electing a new Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, and soundly defeating another ballot measure, Proposition 23, which would have suspended California’s stringent air pollution laws until its unemployment rate declined.

Proponents of marijuana legalization, like the group Norml, have put a happy face on the measure’s defeat, nothing that the 46 percent of the vote it achieved is better than any similar initiative in any other state, and that national polls show support for legalization having increased significantly over the past 10 or 15 years.

Others have been more skeptical, however. Tyler Cowen, a libertarian-leaning economist at George Mason University who writes columns for The Times, commented on his blog that “we’re seeing the high water mark for pot, as aging demographics do not favor the idea,” and that he couldn’t see marijuana “climbing the legalization hill, if it can’t make it through current-day California.”

The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle expressed similar sentiments, noting that parenthood — and the changes in attitude it can cause toward drug legalization — was a significant barrier to such initiatives passing.

The relationships between age, parenthood and views on marijuana are a bit complex, so it’s worth going to some effort to untangle them.