A new CBS poll released last week is the first to show majority female support for marijuana legalization. Though still trailing the 59 percent of men who are in favor of legalization, 54 percent of women now say they support it too.
Last year’s CBS poll found only 43 percent of women were pro-legalization, versus 54 percent of men — an 11-point gap. This year’s poll narrows the gap to 5 points and represents an 11 percent jump in support from women in only one year’s time.
Polls in recent years have shown women’s support for legalization as high as 48 percent, but always trailing men’s approval by 8-13 points.
So why the sudden jump, and have we turned a corner in women’s acceptance of weed? One factor is the success of the networking organization Women Grow, which has put a female face on the cannabis industry with a Newsweek cover story and other positive press.
Politicians like NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who have embraced the cause, and mothers who are testifying to state legislatures about their children’s need for medical cannabis, are also broadening public perception of what a legalizer looks and sounds like. And as demonstrated by protesters at last week’s UN drug summit, women are starting to get vocal about the negative effects drug laws have had on their families.
The Christian Science Monitor examined the question of the ganja gender gap in a 2015 article that researched Pew polling numbers.
The article quoted Dr. Tammy Anderson, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, who concluded, “Men smoke marijuana more frequently and more recently than women… they want it to be legalized so they don’t get in trouble.” In recent polls, around 15 percent more men than women admit to having tried marijuana, so there may be some truth in this assertion.
Anderson also raised the prevailing “stoner stereotype” image of a slacker dude. So it’s possible that with the shift in public perception of what a “pothead” looks like, women are becoming increasingly more comfortable seeing themselves as cannabis consumers, and coming “out” to their friends and family and to pollsters.
Maybe non-smoking women are also becoming less frightened about being around pot smokers, or having their adult children smoke pot. In 2013, Pew asked if respondents would feel uncomfortable around marijuana users. Only 44 percent of men said yes, while 57 percent of women did. Or perhaps it was because back then, women thought all pot smokers looked like Cheech and Chong.
The 2015 Pew poll asked men and women the main reason they support or don’t support legalizing cannabis. While men’s answers had more to do with freedom and lack of government interference, women’s reasons were more personal.
“I’m thinking of my child. I don’t want her to try this. I know it’s not good for her health or brain,” said one 33-year-old woman. However, a 69-year-old woman said, “My grandson was diagnosed with epilepsy a year ago and it has been proven that it helps with the seizures.”
Possibly women are just less likely than men to admit to their use or support of marijuana. Only 49 percent of women polled in favor of Colorado’s 2012 legalization measure, but 53 percent of them voted for the measure. The majority of women voters in Washington state also voted in favor of that state’s measure to legalize.
The fact that women are now feeling freer to voice their support for marijuana legalization bodes well for the states that are looking to legalize in November 2016 and beyond.
Are you and/or any of your female friends leaning towards marijuana legalization? We’d love to hear your take on toking up.