Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Andrew Spivak

Second Committee Member

David Dickens

Third Committee Member

Tirth Bhatta

Fourth Committee Member

William Sousa

Number of Pages



This dissertation examines historical changes in marijuana legalization attitudes between 1974 – 2018, using a qualitative study of pro-legalization social movements in marijuana culture and quantitative analyses of measures from the General Social Survey (GSS). The main research question asks what themes have been prevalent in pro-legalization social movements (e.g., libertarianism, anti-establishment and anti-drug-war, medical/cancer patient advocacy, market incentives), how these themes have changed over the past several decades, and whether they connect to trends in legalization attitudes in the (GSS).

The first part of this study is qualitative, employing thematic content analysis of the most prominent national pro-marijuana publication. The subsequent quantitative component of the study is similar to Neilsen (2010), who conducted the only extant research in the past two decades examining temporal trends in attitudes toward marijuana legalization, focusing on favorable/unfavorable attitudes in relation to age (period and cohort effects). The present study expands on this work by considering other demographics, political orientation, and political and social attitudes related to the themes revealed in the content analysis.

The qualitative analysis revealed numerous themes corresponding to the historical evolution of marijuana attitudes and policies, and confirmed several expectations about these themes’ relative timing in prominence between the marijuana popular culture periodical and legal-historical events. Quantitative results show variations in attitudes toward marijuana legalization over time and by cohort that support previous research, as well as several hypotheses developed from themes in the qualitative study, including gun ownership and confidence in the president.


Cannabis; Legalization; Marijuana; Medical marijuana; Moral panics; Social movement


Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Law | Sociology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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