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Gallup: Record high 60 per cent of Americans back legal pot

NEW YORK — A record high 60 per cent of American adults support legalization of marijuana, according to a new Gallup poll released three weeks before voters in nine states decide whether to expand legal access to pot.

When Gallup first asked about this issue in 1969, 12 per cent of Americans supported legalization. By 2000, support had increased to 31 per cent and has continued climbing since then, reaching 58 per cent last year.

Recreational use of marijuana is currently legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Depending on the Election Day outcome, they could be joined by Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.

Three other states — Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota — will be deciding whether to permit marijuana for medical purposes. Montanans will vote on whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law.

According to Gallup's new poll, released on Wednesday, 67 per cent of Democrats support legalization, compared to 42 per cent of Republicans and 70 per cent of independents. Support among adults aged 18-34 was 77 per cent , compared to 45 per cent among those over 55.

The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-9 with a random sample of 1,017 adults living in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Gallup said the margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Gallup's findings were similar to those in a survey released Oct. 12 by the Pew Research Center. It found that 57 per cent of U.S. adults supported legalization of marijuana, up from 32 per cent a decade earlier.

Tom Angell, chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said the two polls suggested that prospects were good for the state ballot measures.

"More politicians — presidential candidates included — would do themselves a big favour to take note of the clear trend," he said in an email.