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Pot legalization gains favor in latest survey

A majority of Americans now say marijuana should be made legal, with far fewer viewing it as a gateway to harder drugs or as morally wrong, according to a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

By 52 percent to 45 percent, more say marijuana should be made legal than not, with support for legalization jumping 7 percentage points in two years and 20 points since the 2002 General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center.

The rapid change matches an increase in usage. In the new poll, nearly half of Americans reported trying marijuana in their lifetime (48 percent), up eight points since 2010. More people who have smoked in the past year say it was “just for fun” than because of a medical issue (47 percent vs. 30 percent).

The overall shift in support is driven by wide acceptance among younger Americans as well as changing views among their elders. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of people born since 1980 (between ages 18 and 32) say marijuana should be legal. Baby boomers and Generation Xers have become far more supportive, with at least half of each now in support.

Six in 10 Democrats and independents now support legalizing marijuana, but an equal majority of Republicans are opposed. Support has grown across party lines in recent years, yet the poll finds a growing ideological schism within the GOP. About 29 percent of conservative Republicans support legalization, but a 53 percent majority of moderate and liberal Republicans back the idea.

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