But anti-drug messaging is powerful. And to illustrate the point, we have new data from Pew Research on Americans' attitudes toward legalizing marijuana.
There's a big split by party -- Democrats and independents are more receptive to legalization than Republicans -- but that may be linked to the overlap of politics and age. The graph below shows the generational attitudes toward legalization, from Millennials (now 18 to 35) to the pre-Boomer "Silent" generation (70 and up). The older you get, the more you oppose legalization.
When I was a kid, drug propaganda -- not differentiating between marijuana and everything else -- looked like this:
By the time the Millennials came around, anti-pot propaganda looked like this:
Pew asked why people oppose legalization. The answers they got often reflect more of the intensity of the former attitude than the mellowness of the latter.
We've highlighted two that were at the center of anti-marijuana rhetoric for years. Is marijuana addictive? Yes, says the government ... adding that it is "linked to a mild withdrawal syndrome." Is marijuana a gateway drug to other substances? Yes, says the government ... technically, sort of, but "most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, 'harder' substances." The "gateway drug" argument has been debunked in the past at other outlets. But still: 11 percent of those who oppose marijuana legalization focus on it being a gateway.
The war on drugs has not been much of a success in keeping people from using drugs. But it seems to have been very good at making people think the war on drugs is necessary.