Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in The Sociological Quarterly, 58:3 (2017), 405-428,

doi 10.1080/00380253.2017.1331715


Copyright © 2017 Midwest Sociological Society. Published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


We cast fresh light on how and why Americans’ views on marijuana legalization shifted between 1973 and 2014. Results from age-period-cohort models show a strong negative effect of age and relatively high levels of support for legalization among baby boom cohorts. Despite the baby boom effect, the large increase in support for marijuana legalization is predominantly a broad, period-based change in the population. Additional analyses demonstrate that differences in support for legalization by education, region, and religion decline, that differences by political party increase, and that differences between whites and African Americans reverse direction. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings and by identifying promising directions for future research on this topic.