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Poll Shows Support for Pot Legalization Continues to Rise

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Thirteen states have legalized marijuana for medical use, so it's no surprise the latest Pew poll analyzing Americans' views toward pot normalization shows that a whopping 73 percent of all Americans believe medical marijuana ought be legal. Pot activists will be most encouraged by the fact that solid support was recorded in all states, not just those that have already legalized medical marijuana.

But the new fight in the larger battle for cannabis rights has marijuana legalization for consumption by all adults in mind -- and though support for taxing and regulating marijuana has only modestly risen lately, the overall trend shows more and more Americans approve of legalizing a drug at least one-fourth of Americans have admitted to trying.

Indeed, 41 percent of Americans approve of pot legalization -- up from 35 percent in 2008, the last time Pew asked the same question. Twenty years ago, only 18 percent approved of legalization. (The most recent non-Pew polls have shown approval ranging in the 40s and 30s -- a Gallup poll in October 2009 showed support at 44 percent; support came in at 35 percent in the 2008 General Social Survey.)

Of course, there's a good chance 41 percent may be underestimating how many actually believe pot ought be legalized, seeing that the question asked whether "marijuana should be made legal, or not?" Perhaps if they'd used the words "tax and regulate," more people would have answered affirmatively.

California is readying for its November ballot initiative which will allow voters to decide whether cannabis ought be taxed and regulated for all adults over 21, much in the same way alcohol is. The Tax Cannabis 2010 campaign has taken painstaking efforts to frame its message around "tax and regulate" rather than "legalize." That frame may win some reticent voters particularly in face of the state's $20 billion budget deficit.

The campaign could glean some interesting information on people they ought be targeting from the data culled by Pew. According to this poll, men support marijuana legalization at 45 percent compared to women who support it at 38 percent. Not surprisingly, young people are for it at 58 percent, while the 30- to 64-year-old cohorts' approval is in the 40s and those 65+ only support it at 22 percent. Republican support is at 24 percent, while Democrat approval is precisely double that.

But perhaps even better news for Tax Cannabis is that in states where medical marijuana is already in place -- like California, which was actually the first -- support for marijuana legalization is higher than nationwide, coming in at 48 percent.