For 1st time, majority back legal marijuana
WASHINGTON -- Just five months after Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a poll released Thursday 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 to harder drugs.
The poll found that 50 percent of all baby boomers now back legalized marijuana.