Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

A new poll finds that, for the first time, a majority of Americans favors legalizing marijuana.

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Monique Rydberg weighs and packages medical marijuana Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, at The Joint, a medical marijuana cooperative in Seattle.

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According to a new Gallup poll, a majority of Americans, for the first time, favor legalizing marijuana. Over the last year, support for legalizing the drug increased 10 percentage points, reaching 58 percent, while just 39 percent oppose legalization. The first time Gallup asked whether Americans wanted to make marijuana legal, which was in 1969, only 12 percent said yes.

According to Gallup, "The movement to legalize marijuana mirrors the relatively recent success of the movement to legalize gay marriage, which voters have also approved now in 14 states. Public support for gay marriage, which Americans also overwhelmingly opposed in the past, has increased dramatically, reaching majority support in the last two years."

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Among the different age groups Gallup polled, only those 65 or older remain in opposition to legalizing the drug. There is also a stark partisan divide, with 65 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents favoring legalization, compared to just 35 percent of Republicans.

Last year, voters in both Colorado and Washington approved referendums legalizing marijuana, and the Obama administration's Department of Justice said it will allow those laws to go forward uncontested. Voters in Portland, Maine, will cast ballots on a measure this November that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug by adults. A panel in California is also looking at a possible 2016 ballot measure on legalization. In South America, meanwhile, Uruguay is poised to become the first nation to fully legalize and regulate marijuana.

But, of course, the traditional opposition to legalizing marijuana hasn't gone away, with opponents citing potential health risks of the drug. As David Evans, a special adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation, wrote in U.S. News:

The increased use [from legalization] will increase the multitude of costs that come with marijuana use. The costs from health and mental wellness problems, accidents and damage to our economic productivity will far out strip any tax obtained. Our economy is suffering. The last thing we need is the burden that legalization will put on us.

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What do you think? Should marijuana be legalized? Take the poll and comment below.

This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.