Tribune Editorial: The tide is turning on marijuana

And Big Pharma has no one to blame but itself.

In this Tuesday, July 1, 2014, file photo, owner Bob Leeds inspects small "clone" marijuana plants growing under lights at Sea of Green Farms, a recreational pot grower and processor in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

The tide is turning on marijuana.

And Big Pharma has no one to blame but itself.

The horrific epidemic of addiction and death linked to the profligate distribution of opioid prescription pain relievers has moved Americans of all stripes to reconsider the advantages of a substance that used to be reserved for the counterculture.

Real, detailed scientific knowledge of the uses and possible abuses of this naturally occurring material is sadly far short of what it should be. Or what it would be if the federal government hadn’t become hooked on its pointless 47-year-old decision that cannabis has no medical value worth investigating.

But generations of widespread, if illicit, experience with marijuana, whether for relief of pain or seizures or for the sheer fun of it, has convinced ever-larger numbers of people -- and now of states -- that the time for cannabis has come at last.

The argument that marijuana has not survived the kind of rigorous regulatory review some folks still want to put it through has lost just about all of its credibility in a society where that same supposed public safety regime unleashed, and seems unable to limit, the plague of opioid addiction.

Use of the weed is so widely accepted across the nation that a new poll shows that a healthy majority of all Americans — 64 percent — now favor making it legal. Not just for a narrow list of medical uses but just plain legal, at least for adults.

Even a bare majority of self-identified Republicans -- 51 percent -- have joined that positive trend.

Voters or lawmakers in 29 states and the District of Columbia have loosened their laws on the use of cannabis to one degree or another. Six states and the District of Columbia, ignoring the fact that cannabis is still forbidden by federal law, have made marijuana for adults legal for any purpose. That number includes Utah’s neighbors of Colorado and Nevada. The rest have allowed the medical use of the plant or its derivatives under a varying set of circumstances.

Even in Utah — where even the libertarian streak is a bit more, well, conventional — the most recent poll shows that a resounding 75 percent of Utah voters are behind a proposed initiative that would allow the medical use of some forms of marijuana for a limited number of maladies.

That’s important because, while the Legislature has eyed a few proposals for creating a Utah regime of medical cannabis, those bills have failed and been far too tilted toward the “more study is needed” approach. That dithering would require far too many suffering people to continue suffering for far too long.

Utah may well choose to remain behind the rest of the nation when it comes to the legal uses of marijuana. But it should not be that far behind.