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The Marijuana Conversation At Thanksgiving Dinner

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Five Tips For Talking To Your Family About Marijuana Legalization At Thanksgiving

By Derek Rosenfeld, Drug Policy Alliance

My whole family knows that I work for the Drug Policy Alliance and that my job means advocating for the removal of criminal penalties for drug use. Marijuana is often a topic of conversation at our family dinners, so since voters in Colorado and Washington approved marijuana legalization measures on Election Day, I know I should be ready to talk about it again this Thanksgiving.

If the conversation at your Thanksgiving dinner gets boring, you should feel comfortable bringing up marijuana legalization. It’s been all over the news since Election Day and public opinion about marijuana legalization is changing rapidly - from 36 percent in favor and 60 percent opposed in 2006 to 50 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed as of 2011. That’s a 28 point swing in just five years. Your family may be more supportive than you think.

Here are five useful talking points for your dinner table conversation about marijuana:

  1. As our executive director Ethan Nadelmann points out, “It would be a mistake to call these ballot initiative victories ‘pro-pot.’ Most of those who voted in favor don’t use marijuana… What moved them was the realization that it made more sense to regulate, tax and control marijuana than to keep wasting money and resources trying to enforce an unenforceable prohibition.”
  2. The passage of these initiatives only marks the beginning of a long fight ahead. We are bound to see some sort of response from the federal government. For example, the feds’ ongoing war on medical marijuana dispensaries quietly continues to threaten patient access. There is a long fight ahead defending and implementing these measures.
  3. Marijuana arrests are the driving force of the drug war – they make up half of the more than 1.5 million annual arrests for drugs.  Legalizing marijuana means freeing up resources so law enforcement officials can focus on serious and violent crimes.
  4. High school seniors continuously report that they find it easier to acquire marijuana than alcohol. Why? People who sell beer are forced to ask for proper identification but the illicit market doesn’t force people who sell drugs to ask their customers for I.D.  Regulating marijuana will help ensure that only adults are able to legally purchase marijuana, making it more difficult to wind up in the hands of young people.
  5. This is the same way alcohol Prohibition came to an end - seeing the incredible increases in violence and corruption after pushing alcohol into the illicit market, states experimented with new laws repealing prohibition and ultimately led to the repeal of federal Prohibition.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect about the past, but it’s also an important time to discuss the future. Use this Thanksgiving as an opportunity to hear how your family feels about the war on drugs.

View more blog posts from Drug Policy Alliance.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance


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Johnny Green


  1. Good article. I suspect that there will be many conversations concerning this topic. As a paraplegic father of a college and high school age children (who dont use marijuana) they are already convinced of the medical benefits including being safer than the narcotic medications that are routinely prescribed to me and they realize the socitial benefits as well. I advocate for legalization to my friends and family and the majority agree. However, the problem lies, as you may already know, with educating the older citizens (65+) who have been subjected to decades of marijuana lies.

  2. It’s very important that we can talk with our families about ending prohibition, especially if you have family members over 65. These are the people who will be voting in the coming elections. It’s time to start winning minds and hearts at your dinner table.

    Let’s not forget a few more points that would be good to bring up:

    6. Marijuana is harmless, both to the user and to society. Places that have decriminalized marijuana or legalized Medical Marijuana have suffered no ill effects. Studies have even shown that driving is not significantly impaired with marijuana use.

    7. The drug war has failed miserably. It has not stopped the flow of drugs at all, and has only crammed countless non-violent young people into the prison system.

    8. Putting people in jail is not an effective way to deal with drug use. Rehab is a much better solution for people with hard addictions.

    9. Legalization does not mean that more people will be encouraged to try it. People who want to smoke marijuana now already do, and that will not change if it is legal. They will simply stop having to live in fear of being arrested.

    10. Legalization takes money AWAY from the drug cartels. Growing and selling the plant out in the open here in America will wipe out the dangerous black market.

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