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52% Support Pot Legalization: Pew Survey

For the first time, a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana, a Pew Research Center poll has found.

Some 52% of Americans now say pot should be legal, up from 41% in 2010. The survey indicates a dramatic shift since the late 1960s, when a Gallup survey found a mere 12% in favor of legalizing "Mary Jane," while 84% were opposed.

Not surprisingly, Pew's 2013 poll found that older Americans are more opposed to pot legalization than younger generations. It also found men are slightly more likely to favor legalization than women.

In general, the numbers shed light on how Americans' attitudes toward marijuana have changed.

Changing Attitudes About Marijuana

According to the Pew survey, it seems the long-term shift in favor of legalizing marijuana can be attributed to changing attitudes about marijuana. Attitudes have shifted in the following ways:

  • Fewer people believe marijuana is a gateway drug to the use of "hard" drugs;
  • More people believe marijuana has legitimate medical uses;
  • Fewer people believe marijuana carries a social stigma and that using marijuana is immoral; and
  • Fewer people believe in the utility of marijuana law enforcement.

Increased Use

About 48% of American adults have tried marijuana, according to the Pew survey. The percentage is eye-opening considering just two years ago, only 40% said they had tried pot. Moreover, the Pew survey found that for people who used marijuana within the past year, about half did so for recreational purposes, while the other half turned to marijuana for medical reasons.

The Minority Opposition

Despite the shift in attitude, not everyone is looking to "puff the magic dragon." In fact, the Pew survey reveals that about half of Americans say they would feel uncomfortable if people around them used marijuana. Part of their discomfort could be traced to growing concerns about the legalization of marijuana, including:

Lawmakers in Colorado and Washington state, where voters approved recreational pot use last fall, are currently addressing these concerns. Washington has set a drugged driving limit for pot use, and both states are in the midst of drafting more marijuana regulations.

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