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Poll: Majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana

By Rob Hotakainen

McClatchy Newspapers

LAST UPDATED: 11:52 a.m. HST, Apr 04, 2013

WASHINGTON » Just five months after Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a poll released today found that a majority of Americans now agree and say it should not be illegal to smoke the drug.

And, as Attorney General Eric Holder tries to figure out how to respond to the new legalization laws, the poll had more good news for voters in the two states: Sixty percent of Americans say the U.S. government should not enforce federal drug laws in any state that has voted to legalize pot.

The poll found a strong consensus among people of all political persuasions for the federal government not to intervene: 64 percent of those who identified as independents, 59 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republicans.

Overall, 52 percent of Americans now say marijuana should be legal, while 45 percent say it should remain illegal, according to the poll conducted in mid-March by the Pew Research Center.

The center said the results marked the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue that legalized marijuana had won majority support.

More Americans are experimenting with marijuana, too, the poll found.

Forty percent said they had smoked the drug, compared with 38 percent a decade ago. And the poll found a sharp decline in the percentage of Americans who now believe that marijuana is a “gateway” drug that leads users to try other, harder drugs such as cocaine.

The poll found that 50 percent of all baby boomers now back legalized marijuana, compared with only 17 percent of boomers in 1990.

But it’s mainly younger Americans who are propelling the drive to legalize the drug, with 65 percent of adults born since 1980 — now between the ages of 18 and 32 — known collectively as the Millennial Generation, backing the idea. That compares with just 36 percent for the same age group five years ago.

The poll found that support for legalizing marijuana rose by 11 points among all age groups since 2010. That’s a huge change since a 1969 Gallup survey found only 12 percent backing legalized marijuana, while 84 percent were opposed.

Another Gallup poll in December found 48 percent of Americans backing legalized pot, while 50 percent were opposed to the idea.

Reacting to today’s Pew poll, Steve Fox, national political director for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., said marijuana prohibition “is a policy without a rational basis and without public support.”

“These results do not just represent a tipping point,” he said. With support for legalization among people under age 50 at close to 60 percent, he said, “This is more like the tip of the iceberg. Elected officials across the country need to listen to the people.”

Washington state and Colorado officials are proceeding with plans to open recreational dispensaries later this year, but both are awaiting a formal response from Holder on whether the federal government will try to stop them.

Holder is under fierce pressure from both sides, with marijuana opponents urging him to uphold the federal statutes and block the states from proceeding, while proponents want the Obama administration to stay out of the way.

Holder has given no indication how he will rule. But he told the Senate Judiciary Committee early last month that he would release an opinion soon, though he gave no specific time frame.

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Bdpapa wrote:
Was this poll taken on college campuses? Sounds like it.
on April 4,2013 | 11:54AM
HAJAA1 wrote:
Whadaya talking bout man?
on April 4,2013 | 12:03PM
Slow wrote:
It was surprising that local heavy weight politicos supported the recent marijuana liberalization measure that died. Apparently only the police department still believes in saving us from marijuana addiction. We have a lucrative crop here, folks, with decades of free advertising. Kona Gold, Puna Butter, Maui Wowie...corny but legendary names. Let's not wait for other states to get their act together before we do.
on April 4,2013 | 12:10PM
serious wrote:
I agree with you,but my latest comments on this issue has been purged by the censorship. No cuss words just anti D's.
on April 4,2013 | 12:59PM
droid wrote:
There is no evidence that marijuana is any more addicting then alcohol. In fact, commercial tobacco products are highly addicting. Why don’t we ban beer, wine and cigarettes? Oh yeah. We tried that 93 years ago. And failed. And the experiment resulted in birth of the most violent and powerful crime organizations in the world: the American mafia.
on April 4,2013 | 10:31PM
serious wrote:
It's the same old crap in local politics--it grows here, people smoke it, it's available--even the HPD grows it, but to legalize it??? Gambling, we have it, it grows, we use it, but does the legislature touch it??? Then we have the Jones Act, our senior senator loves it because he can get union votes on the $$$ on the backs of the middle class. I thought this was a D state??
on April 4,2013 | 12:19PM
FluidMotion wrote:
Please don't show this poll or many others like it to our elected officials. They are supposed to be representing the will of the people. However, we all know most are in office to serve themselves.
on April 4,2013 | 01:54PM
kainalu wrote:
To have an informed opinion on the subject, you should start with "The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937". A quick study of that process would lead most intelligent Americans to the conclusion that pot is illegal strictly and solely for political reasons, and the greed associated wtih most things political. Pot wasn't even a drug until this act. In short, pot is merely a bi-product of hemp, while hemp-pulp fiber as exponential more uses than wood-pulp fiber. And that's the base for the draconian law we are challenged with today - hemp-pulp fiber is a direct threat to the wood-pulp industry, which at that time was heavily invested in by none-other than William Randolph Hearst - the newspaper magnate. He used that medium, his newpaper to spread "reefer madness" fear-mongering. He was joined by the DuPont family, which businesses amongst others included pharmacueuticals - hello? Meanwhile, pot has been studied to death - "the most extensive studies of their kind" headed by Dr. Donald Tashkin, the hired-gun of the DEA and pulmonary specialist from UCLA Geffen School of Medicine. In short, he couldn't conclude that pot was detrimental, not even as much as the consumption of salt and sugar. I challenge all readers of this to source any research that concludes that the consumption of pot is worse for you medically-speaking than the consumption of salt or sugar.
on April 4,2013 | 02:05PM
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