Most historians would tell you that change happens slowly. When societies experience a big change around a particular social issue, it usually takes a long time for things to start moving in the right direction. It certainly took the activists involved in the Civil Rights a long time to get what they wanted, and most would tell you that they’re still fighting today for true equality. However, sometimes things don’t take so long. Sometimes there’s a catalyst that gets things moving quickly, as the recent incident in Charlottesville would attest to. All it took was one terrible person committing a horrible act of violence for people to wake up to the fact that white supremacy still exists and still poses a threat to the country.
There are two other issues, however, that have changed rather quickly without such a catalyst. The first is gay marriage. It seemed like almost overnight that public perception shifted. Very quickly a majority of Americans went from opposing gay marriage to being for it, and the Supreme Court decision codified that shift into law. Of course, there were activists fighting for years for gay marriage to be legal, but the public opinion of it shifted quickly.
The second such issue is marijuana. If current trends continue on their path, it’s quite likely that medical cannabis is going to be legal in the entire country before long. Twenty years ago, this would have been entirely unthinkable. Over the past decade or so something has happened in the country, and just like with gay marriage, a majority of Americans used to opposed medical marijuana and now well more than 50%, sometimes 60% or more in some polls, are for it. People have completely shifted their opinion of their plant, and now most agree that if there’s a symptom that could be treated with medical marijuana then people should be able to use medical marijuana.
The easiest way to see this shift is how easy it’s been for most states to pass legalized medical marijuana on the ballots. Fifteen years ago, it would have been nearly impossible just to get legalized medical marijuana on the ballot in most states, but today states are passing it into law with overwhelming majorities. More than half the states in the country, 26 to be exact, have now legalized medical marijuana, and there’s no signs of this showing down. Before long, the federal government is going to have to step in and make a decision, and odds are that they’ll end up legalizing the plant for medicinal purposes nationwide.
In states like Colorado, it’s already easy for people to visit a dispensary like Boulder Wellness Center and pick up their medical marijuana on a regular basis. All they have to do is visit with their doctor and get an approval for medical marijuana, and then they can visit any medical marijuana dispensary they like to pick up their medicine. It’s a truly amazing shift, one that didn’t require a catalyst. It’s hard to know exactly what happened, but the fact is that public opinion shifted and the laws were then changed to reflect that shift.