A hilarious moment on game show Family Feud, where the answer to the question "name something that gets passed around" - a joint - topped the second answer -"church collection" - may provide more insight on a changing America than laughs. (Story continues after video.)
Legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana is sweeping the nation. In November, voters in Colorado and Washington State approved measures that legalized recreational use of pot. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow its use for medicinal purposes. Numerous states and local governments have taken the step to decriminalize pot, making its possession a misdemeanor or ticketing offense. This year Rhode Island became the 15th state to reduce charges and penalties for pot possession. Emboldened by the Colorado and Washington votes, the tiny New England state and Maine introduced bills to legalize recreational use of pot a week after the November election.
Public opinion has shifted considerably on legalizing pot in the last two decades. A survey by Rasmussen earlier this year found that 56 percent of respondents favored legalizing and regulating marijuana. A national Gallup poll last year showed support for legalizing pot had reached 50 percent, up from 46 percent in 2010 and 25 percent in the mid-'90s.
Dan Bernath, of the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group, told IPS news service in a 2009 interview, "There's been a slow realization over the last couple decades that marijuana prohibition doesn't work. Arresting 872,000 Americans every year outweighs costs of marijuana itself," he said.
In an expose by Chicago-based The Reader, journalists Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky say people of all races smoke pot in Chicago, but almost everyone busted is Black.
"The ratio of black to white arrests for marijuana possession in Chicago is 15 to 1," they wrote.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has said the county jails and courts are jammed with petty marijuana offenders. She has indicated in the past that the "war on drugs" is a failure and doesn't help reduce crime.
Recently Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he'd be in favor of decriminalization.