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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

David Merolla


The legalization of cannabis in the United States remains a polarizing issue. Presently, ten states have fully legalized recreational use of cannabis and 21 states have approved ballot initiatives that legalize the use of cannabis for medical reasons. Although support for legalization reached majority approval nationally (>50%) in 2013, the flowering plant remains illegal under federal law. Given the racialized rhetoric surrounding cannabis prohibition throughout American history, it follows that individuals who harbor more racial animus may indeed be more skeptical of marijuana legalization. This research looks at how whites’ racial animus informs their support for marijuana legalization over time periods, across birth cohorts, and by different forms of evolving racism (old-fashioned and laissez-faire). Using logistic regression models to analyze General Social Survey data from 1974-2016, this research finds that that old-fashioned racism has a negative effect on support for legalization. Additionally, this research finds that laissez-faire racism also has a negative effect on support for marijuana legalization.

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