Attitudes have been shifting in support of legalization for some time, as evidenced by the number of states in which marijuana is now legal. Additionally, a recent Pew Research Center survey shows 57% U.S. adults now feel marijuana should be legalized. However, the overwhelming majority of those in favor of legalization are non-users - meaning the legalization movement is only fractionally represented by actual cannabis users.
The most recent numbers from a National Institute of Drug Abuse study suggest the cannabis user community is only approximately 7% of the U.S. population; it indicated 22.2 million (of 320 million US population) had "used marijuana in the last month". Removing the 7% user community (NIDA) from the 57% supporting legalization (Pew) suggest that fully 50% of the non-user U.S. population supports legalization.
In order for cannabis legalization to succeed then, it is therefore necessary for the movement to embrace non-users the same way the nascent cannabis industry must hire leadership from outside itself to accommodate new canna-businesses that hadn't previously existed under prohibition.
Non-user allies add a layer of credibility, proving that legalizing marijuana makes sense even outside the sphere of their own self-interests. Here are 3 prominent non-user allies of the legalization movement:
Actor Harrelson is a relative newbie to the non-user group. He quit smoking marijuana nearly a year ago, but he hasn’t given up supporting it. Harrelson has long been one of the most vocal proponents for legalizing marijuana and aims to keep it that way.
In an interview with Vulture, Harrelson said he decided to quit after he found himself smoking too much, too often – something he said he felt tends to happen with “30 solid years of just partying too...hard.” He’s still all for marijuana in general and its legalization in particular, just now as an interested observer and advocate rather than market participant.
Magician Jillette (the taller, speaking half of magical duo Penn & Teller) admitted he's never touched a drop of alcohol or had any recreational drug in his entire life, yet he’s strongly in favor of legalizing marijuana. His main reason is somewhat libertarian: “I just don’t like paying money to put potheads in prison.”
He’s most disturbed by the way people’s lives can be ruined by marijuana arrests, as well as the way some people treat the issue lightheartedly. He calls out former President Barack Obama in particular for treating the issue glibly, as if having your life ruined by a marijuana arrest is one big joke.
Actor, writer, singer, spoken word and radio personality Rollins is a non-user and big supporter. In fact, he delivered the keynote address at the recent International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco. His take on the topic is that marijuana has long been misrepresented.
He writes in an L.A. Weekly article that the history of marijuana and hemp is “steeped in racism, false information and hypocrisy” – and it’s high time to change.
And yes, he brings up “Reefer Madness” as propaganda that helped feed into all that steeping.
From Willie Nelson to Tommy Chong, plenty of celebrities have spoken out in favor of legalizing marijuana. Similar to Willie and Tommy, plenty of others may be in favor of legalization for obvious, self-serving reasons. But these three entertainers (and many more) have brought something even stronger than their celebrity status to the movement for legalizing marijuana - they are non-users who still support the cause.
Dan Ogden is a 20+ year veteran of the executive search industry, having covered operations, regulatory and consulting verticals within capital markets as well as data science, data analytics and, more recently, the cannabis industry within search firm and internal corporate HR leadership roles. Dan is Principal of the practice at Delta 9, the Western Hemisphere's' only dedicated cannabis industry executive search firm. To find out how Delta 9's proprietary, trademarked end-to-end recruiting methodology can help you find the key executives to make your company thrive and grow in the cannabis industry, shoot us an email, or give us a ring at 212.390.8190.