The recent election in November and the World Cup that took place over the summer in Brazil showed two important things about Americans: we are evolving socially and we know how to come together for a fun cause. Marijuana and soccer, once uncommon words in the American lexicon, are some of the hottest topics amongst millennials.
Americans have come a long way since the release of the movie Reefer Madness in 1936 that associated marijuana use with manslaughter, suicide, rape, and madness. Any American who would watch this movie today would laugh at its preposterousness and inaccuracy. But even during the 1980s, more than 60% of Americans were opposed to legalizing marijuana, and that number didn’t drop below 60% until after 2005. So what has made Americans change their minds now?
Certainly, one cause is that millennials are overeducated and are products of the Internet age, a time when people have access to unlimited amounts of information and opinions. With the Internet, we can read news from other countries and study laws and policy from other countries. More importantly, Americans can meet and communicate with foreigners without even leaving their basement. At the same time, more American students are studying abroad than ever before, facilitating unprecedented amounts of cultural learning and exchange. Lastly, millennials can vote now. Any millennial born after 1996 is eligible to vote and marijuana is a big issue, mostly because anti-marijuana laws have directly affected them or their friends.
Another factor is that the proponents of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s have now become leaders within society. The generation that grew up with Reefer Madness is slowly dying out and so are their laws. The newest leaders (aka the baby boomers) grew up in an era with social unrest and witnessed marijuana become a countercultural drug. Nowadays, a large majority of baby boomers view the illegality of marijuana as irrational and hypocritical, since most of them see nothing wrong with the drug and probably have used marijuana at least once in their lives themselves.
Despite Republican domination in the most recent U.S. election, the socially liberal issue of marijuana came out a winner. Two more states (Alaska and Oregon) and Washington D.C. all legalized marijuana, which makes it 5 places where it is now legal to use and sell marijuana in the U.S. (the other two are Washington and Colorado). On top of that, nearly 20 other states have decriminalized marijuana, which makes laws much more lenient and accepting of habitual users. These are all examples of how Americans have evolved drastically in regard to this issue.
Abroad, how does America stack up? Many Americans look to Europe as being at the forefront with this issue, but we must look at Uruguay. Uruguay is the only country in the world that has completely legalized marijuana, which makes selling, distributing, and using marijuana legal anywhere in the entire nation. Many think of Amsterdam as the haven for marijuana use (and it is) but there the drug is simply tolerated and on paper the laws have only decriminalized and regulated marijuana, and allow for it to be used in select entertainment districts. Elsewhere in Europe, only around 10 countries have fully decriminalized marijuana.
The biggest driving force behind this marijuana movement, however, is how much money can be made with this “green” industry. The industry this year has been valued as a $7 billion market, caused by the assumption that more and more states will legalize it. And if marijuana continues to be popular (as all studies seem to suggest) then the market value could go even higher.
Chances are, if you ask a millennial if he/she can get you marijuana the answer will be yes. Think about what that means. The drug is very popular and if it becomes legal the demand will increase even more. Future marijuana companies just have to keep in mind that their product can’t be too expensive and must be more convenient to buy than going to the black market. Overregulation could bust this boom.
The fact is the marijuana movement is here for the long haul and Americans have come to accept its place in society and its role as a symbol for social change in the U.S.
Anyone who paid attention to world events over the summer surely couldn’t have missed the craziness and popularity surrounding the World Cup that took place in Brazil. Once an unpopular world event in the U.S., this past World Cup created quite the buzz on social media and in sports circles around the country. For U.S. games, there were even various “watch parties” in city plazas and entertainment districts across the nation.
According to Twitter, there were 672 million tweets throughout the course of the tournament, millions of which came from Americans. The final game, itself, broke Twitter’s tweet-per-minute record. At the same time, many of these American tweets were written in Spanish, indicating that soccer in America is about multiculturalism and an evolving youth.
As was the case with marijuana, this trend also comes down to generations. The generation that grew up with Reefer Madness and marijuana paranoia also witnessed the heyday of American baseball in the 1950s. Nowadays, most Americans (especially millennials) can’t endure a three and half hour baseball game, probably because their attention spans have diminished in recent times. And again because of the Internet, Americans can take an interest in other countries, and the interest in European soccer in the U.S. right now is at its highest level ever.
The majority of soccer games are guaranteed to last less than 2 hours and the action never stops (according to true fans). And those who do watch European soccer, can’t help but notice the extreme passion that soccer fans have there. When is the last time you went to a baseball game and saw continuous cheering for three hours, especially during those ungodly boring moments where they switch pitchers three times in an inning?
Millennials want passion and a more communal sporting experience, and soccer meets these demands. Combine this with the Hispanic population in the U.S. and one begins to understand why soccer is becoming so popular. Latin America loves their soccer and even those millennial Hispanics who were born in the U.S. still prefer soccer to baseball. It’s estimated that soccer is the second most popular sport among Americans ages 15-25. Again, if you ask millennials who their favorite athletes are chances are they’ll name soccer stars or NBA players.
One city that looks to be the epicenter for all this soccer popularity is Seattle. Their MLS (Major League Soccer) team, the Sounders, occasionally sells out their stadium (the same as the Seahawks) that has 67,000 seats, and totes a 44,000-fan average throughout the season. Elsewhere in the U.S., the MLS could use a boost in popularity but if soccer maintains its trend the MLS could become a world-class league and could produce subsequent success at the international level for the United States national team.
Today, you can watch the MLS Cup (the Super bowl of soccer) on ESPN at 3 p.m. (E.T.). If you happen to reside in Alaska, Oregon, Washington (D.C,), or Colorado, enjoy the game with a special legal substance. If you don’t, just ask a millennial for some help.