The next time you attend a political rally or street protest, don’t be too surprised if you smell a wisp of marijuana smoke in the air. Research suggests that cannabis consumers are politically active and more willing to protest than Americans who abstain from the herb.
In a 33-page thesis published on BEARdocs, Baylor University’s repository for scholastic projects, author Jake M. Kane finds that “marijuana users are more likely to publicly protest as well as attend political rallies than those who abstain from using.” Kane’s research, titled The Politics of Pot: Marijuana Use and the Potential for Collective Action, demonstrates that years of anti-marijuana rhetoric from the science and political communities have spurred a growing skepticism and cynicism regarding cannabis regulations. That skepticism has spread to other political issues.
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As Kane writes in his abstract:
Marijuana and its legal status occupy a lengthy and controversial place in United States history. Penalties for marijuana use and distribution have increased in severity alongside the number of individuals who annually consume the drug. This has spurred skepticism regarding the effectiveness of prohibitive drug policy, especially when considering the harsh consequences that penalties place on individuals. To the dismay of the federal government, skepticism has manifested into political action by American state governments that have begun legalizing marijuana use for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Using nationally representative data from the Baylor Religion Survey, I find marijuana users are more likely to publicly protest as well as attend political rallies than those who abstain from using. These findings hold true for public protest when separating the sample by political party identification. However, political rally attendance only shows significant relationships for marijuana users who describe themselves as politically independent.
Kane suggests that the more the federal government cracks down on marijuana, the more marijuana consumers will protest. “The repercussions of prohibition and the penalties attributed to it have had an alarming and eye-opening effect on multiple factions of American society over time,” Kane writes. “With continued efforts by the United States federal government to stifle legalization progress at lower levels of government, further research regarding the individual and societal effects of marijuana are needed more than ever to inform a peculiar discrepancy in policy that has the ability to affect a significant number of American citizens.”