More Americans than ever want to legalize pot

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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A new Gallup poll shows that a record 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

That’s a 10 percent jump since last November when Colorado and Washington became the first states to defy federal prohibition and allow adults to possess, grow and smoke pot.

“Success at the ballot box in the past year in Colorado and Washington may have increased Americans’ tolerance for marijuana legalization,” Gallup reported. “Support for legalization has jumped 10 percentage points since last November and the legal momentum shows no sign of abating.”

The new numbers shatter the old record of 50 percent support for legalization recorded in 2011. Marijuana advocates praised the news and reiterated calls for Congress to end marijuana prohibition.

“The dramatically increasing support for making marijuana legal should come as no surprise,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in a press release. “Marijuana prohibition has been an abject failure. Most Americans realize it is unjust, wasteful and counterproductive to invest in the criminalization of adults for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol.”

The historic majority support for pot legalization comes against a still-rocky backdrop for regulating the substance in Colorado. Although it’s still illegal under federal laws, the Justice Department said two months ago that it wouldn’t interfere with state laws as long as Colorado and Washington ensure the retail industry is strictly regulated. The states must keep pot away from kids, prevent smuggling to neighboring states and account for practically every gram grown and sold under the new laws.

Colorado is stepping gingerly into this uncharted territory, proposing a taxing scheme to fund oversight and regulations that some critics say is too high. Voters are being asked to approve a 15 percent excise tax as well as a 10 percent statewide sales tax; local governments can ask voters to add their own taxes as well.

Opponents of the ballot measure warn that overtaxing pot will allow the black market to continue thriving, defeating the purpose of legalization.

The state’s first marijuana retail stores are expected to open on Jan. 1.

In addition to the two states that have outright legalized pot for recreational use, 20 states and Washington, D.C. have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. Californians are expected to vote on a statewide referendum legalizing marijuana in 2014.

As in previous polls, more Democrats (65 percent) and independent voters (62 percent) support legalization than Republicans (35 percent). Perhaps not surprisingly, young voters overwhelmingly support legalization, with those aged 18-29 years old supporting it by 67 percent.

The only age group in which a majority opposes legalization, with 53 percent wishing to keep pot illegal, are those 65 and older.

“It is time for Congress to take this issue head on,” Kampia said. “It should no longer be considered scary or troublesome to speak out in support of more sensible marijuana policies. We need to put marijuana prohibition behind us, and our leaders need to step up to move things forward.”

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Tags : marijuana
Greg Campbell