Why legalize weed? F&M poll respondents say it’s a sign of the times.

More states are legalizing marijuana, and Pennsylvania already allows the drug for medical use.  (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

More states are legalizing marijuana, and Pennsylvania already allows the drug for medical use. (Ted S. Warren/AP Photo)

When Franklin and Marshall College first started polling Pennsylvanians about legalizing marijuana in 2006, only 22 percent of respondents said they were in favor.

Since then, the number has ballooned to 56 percent.

So why the change?

Barbara Kiger, a 70-year old Easton resident who responded to F&M’s latest survey, said she has felt something of a cultural shift.

A few years ago, Kiger — a Democrat — said she would have been against legalization.

But “hearing from the TV ads and the papers and stuff, it seems like it’s basically the right thing to do,” she said.

She added that Pennsylvania’s legalization of medical marijuana softened her opinion on the drug.

“One of the top reasons was it would help a lot of people, especially children and stuff who have a lot of medical conditions,” she said.

F&M’s pollsters said it’s not every day they see public opinion morph so rapidly.

Terry Madonna said he’s gleaned two major reasons for the change from his survey results: more states have legalized recreational cannabis, and the use of the drug — legal or otherwise — has become more ubiquitous.

“The fact of the matter is, people now know that it’s in their communities,” he said.

Madonna and fellow pollster Berwood Yost both said the issue is comparable, in some ways, to gay marriage.

Once people broadly changed how they talked about those topics, Yost said, attitudes shifted and political change kicked into gear.

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