Women may be the hidden factor in the pot debate. A new Quinnipiac National Poll finds a huge gender gap on marijuana legalization, with men supporting it 59 to 36 percent but women opposing it 52 to 44 percent. On an issue basis, that may be one of the biggest gender gaps in American politics—maybe even bigger than those much-discussed “women’s issues” like “reproductive rights.” Via Tyler Cowen, Michele Martinez Campbell proffers the following explanation at her blog NarcoLaw:
NarcoLaw’s best guess (an informed guess, but a guess nevertheless) is that female opposition stems from questions about the impact legalization will have on public health, crime and the social fabric. With the Washington state legalization initiative set to take effect tomorrow, the broader consequences of legalization remain an enormous unknown. Women, as the Quinnipiac poll suggests, remain concerned, and unpersuaded that legalization is the answer.
We don’t know if Campbell’s explanation is correct, but it’s notable that women have traditionally lead the campaign for drug and alcohol restrictions. That was the case with Prohibition, of course—the movement to outlaw the demon drink was closely connected with the movement for women’s suffrage. That tradition seems to be alive and well. Whether women’s opposition to pot legalization will be enough to slow or stop the legalization movement remains to be soon, although organized groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving had important successes in raising the drinking age nationwide. But the gap itself is fascinating, and could have greater implications for American politics than other areas in which politicians believe a gender gap exists.