Thirty to Fifty-Year-Old Women Key to 2012 Marijuana Victories in the US

As cannabis reform campaigners have sharpened their messages public support has grown, most notably among 30 to 50-year-old women, who were key constituencies in ballot initiatives.

Early last month, voters in Washington D.C., Oregon and Alaska voted to legalize marijuana, following the success of similar ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington in 2012. A new briefing paper form the Global Drug Policy Observatory (GDPO) at Swansea University -- read here -- now looks at how campaigners engaged with voters in 2012 and won the messaging war. In particular it shows how women tilted the balance in key votes.

David Bewley-Taylor, the director of the GDPO, said, “Research shows that women were the key demographic in these historic marijuana campaigns. Activists directed much of their attention on 30 to 50-year-old women and, at the end of the day it was women who made history.”

The briefing paper looks at how voters engaged with marijuana reform including concerns that needed to be assuaged, messages that connected and what public benefits people hoped a regulated cannabis market would bring. Exit polling showed support mainly hinged on the freeing up of scarce law enforcement resources in order to focus on more serious crimes and tax revenue for worthy causes from a regulated market.

Bewley-Taylor said, “After decades of ‘war on drugs’ rhetoric saturating the airwaves, the public shift away from criminalization is a momentous development. The process of how the public got to where it is now is an incredible story.”

Prior to the November 2014 marijuana vote, a group of Oregon moms organized a press conference to announce their support for cannabis regulation, arguing that regulation would help protect their children from the dangers of the black market. 

While analysis of the key demographics in 2014's successful campaigns is yet to be done, it would be unsurprising if we see similar trends to those highlighted by the GDPO in Washington and Colorado.