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Is marijuana the new gay marriage? U.S. attitudes changing fast

A customer rolls a joint made of half marijuana and half tobacco to smoke inside of Frankie Sports Bar and Grill in Olympia, Washington in this 2012 file photo. Fifty-two per cent of Americans support legalizing the use of marijuana, the first time polls have shown most Americans back legalization, a Pew Research Center poll shows. (REUTERS/Nick Adams)

Historians are going to have a field day unpacking this new America bubbling up from the cracks of the Great Recession.

Set aside for a moment the rapid transformation in U.S. attitudes about gay marriage and gaze at this new survey showing a majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana.

The numbers -- 52 per cent favouring legalization versus 45 opposed -- are unprecedented, the Pew Research Center reports. It's the first majority in more than four decades of polling on what was once the wedgiest of wedge issues.

The survey represents an 11 point shift since 2010. A shift, Pew notes, that is happening across multiple generations, with Millenials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers all showing "a striking change in long-term attitudes" on pot.

The Pew data shows a collapse in the "gateway" argument, with just 38 per cent of the 1,501 adults surveyed agreeing "for most people the use of marijuana leads to the use of hard drugs." It further shows that views on the morality of marijuana have reversed, with 50 per cent saying it is not a moral issue versus 32 per cent who say smoking marijuana is morally wrong.

Political partisanship still informs U.S. views on marijuana -- but here too, views are changing. While most Republicans still opposing legalization (the majority of Democrats and independents are in favour), they all agree the feds should let individual states make their own rules.

Specifically, 57 per cent of Republicans and 59 per cent of Democrats say that the federal government should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states that permit its use. Even stronger majorities -- 67 per cent of Republicans and 71 per cent of Democrats -- say "federal enforcement of marijuana laws is not worth the cost," according to Pew.

Those numbers will be of particular interest to the states of Colorado and Washington, where lawmakers and bureaucrats are looking to guidance from the Obama administration as they create the rulebook for the launch of legal pot sales starting in 2014.

RELATED: Gay marriage: Why America is leading the global rainbow divide

Mitch Potter is the Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem. Potter led the Star’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won a 2006 National Newspaper Award for his reportage. His dispatches include datelines from 33 countries since 2000. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites 




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This is why discussion forums, comment pages and the internet in general are so important. Gives us a chance to change attitudes on things that we've traditionally been told was bad or no good for us.

That cannabis is still illegal is utterly absurd! Anyone who has taken the time to study the issue will soon learn it s FAR less harmful than tobacco, alcohol and most fast food -- and has HUGE medical benefits.

Wake up people -- GW Pharmaceuticals just applied for a patent to use cannabis extract oils to cure cancer --I know several already who have done just that! It does NOT lead to hard drugs and it does NOT lead to lung cancer (See study: Dr. Donald Tashkin -- less lung cancer than those who smoke NOTHING and that applies to even heavy smokers of cannabis). And before you think I am just another pothead -- nope -- I do not even use the stuff, but the $$$ it is costing us in police, legal and jail expenses is INSANE! PLEASE DO THE RESEARCH. There never was a good scientific reason making cannabis illegal! Harper is DEAD WRONG on this issue! BTW -- I worked in public health for over 30 years.

half tobacco..are you kidding me who in their right mind would do that don't they know tobacco causes horrific pictures to be imprinted on cigarette packs?

well, when you are fed lies about things, people will eventually find out the truth, maijauna is not as bad for you as the right wing tends to lead people., one day people will wake up to the smoke screens the oil compnaies puff.. maybe one day the americans will wake up to the propaganda of circumcision... oh one day

For the 100th time, legalizing pot in Canada isn't the problem. We already have massive problems with alcohol and cigarettes. we don't want to add another one onto the mix until we understand it better and develope ways to detect its illegal use, like driving a car while high. Conservatives aren't against legalization (despite all the Liberal lies you are being fed), but we don't support reckless legalization.

As someone who never smokes pot but does take the occasional drink or two, I say just legalize it. Keeping pot illegal is a waste of public resources. It is no more of a gateway drug than alcohol and it is less dangerous (and less addictive) than tobacco. Let the police and prisons concentrate on other matters.

@Andrew Dow-
All the data we have globally tells us legal restrictions do NOT affect the population of users in a meaningful fashion.

You can't stop people from using - anything: booze, pot, coke, heroin, meth.

The only thing you can do with criminal sanctions is create problems and stigma.

Legalize everything-http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/evaluating-drug-decriminalization-in-portugal-12-years-later-a-891060.html

1) Legalize it.

2) Tax it.

3) Use the money for subways.

4) How hard is that?

Here we go again. Yada yada yada.

The war on drugs has resulted in increase use of illegal substances, increase of prison population, billions of needlessly spent dollars. Why is alcohol addiction treated with programs and as a disease when drug addiction is treated with criminality, prisons and obscene profits for the drug lords and other criminal elements? More that 70% of all convicted criminals are drug related

Physcologically speaking pot is addictive. 99% of pot smokers smoke it for the high. The short term high usually result in short term memory loss, mgical thinking, paranoi, anxiety, slow reaction time thus resulting in humerious behavior amongst friends and that is what is addictive folks. The danger of mixing the above while operating a vehicle, boat, bike. Or just swimming, hiking, running, working etc... The supporters of this drug find comfort comparing it to alchohol, ciggaretts and hard core drugs. More less picking the lesser of the 2 evils. That is pathetically weak. Alone by itself tell us why it is good for you. But you wont because you cant. Outside of the rare medical case which I have no problem saying I dont know anything about, there is ZERO good that comes out of smoking pot. The God of this worls put a universal law into play that no man can escape....We always reap what we sow. Oh how I fear for my children and the world we are leaving for them.

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