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For the first time, the majority of Americans want to legalize marijuana

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marijuana flickr
marijuana flickr

In 1969, a mere 12 percent of Americans wanted to legalize marijuana. Today, 58 percent do. That's according to a new poll by Gallup, which says the drug is moving toward social acceptance. "It has been a long path toward majority acceptance of marijuana over the past 44 years, but Americans' support for legalization accelerated as the new millennium began," the pollster says in a press release.

Public support for legalization soared in the 1970s, plateaued during the 1980s and 1990s, and began climbing again in 2000, according to Gallup. Support hit 50 percent in 2011, dipped below 50 percent in 2012, and now appears to have achieved a decisive majority.

Interestingly, the number of Americans who say they have tried marijuana has not increased at the same rate. That figure increased steadily from 4 percent in 1969 to 33 percent in 1985, when it plateaued. This year, 38 percent of Americans copped to trying the drug.

Just 35 percent of Republicans support legalization, versus 65 percent of Democrats

The results were based on a random survey of 1,028 adults. The question, "Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?" did not distinguish between medical and recreational use of marijuana.

Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Washington and Colorado, with many more states allowing marijuana use with a medical prescription. Given the shift in public perception, more states may follow. However, the politics are still charged: just 35 percent of Republicans support legalization, versus 65 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents.

The party split suggests blue states will be legalizing pot long before red ones, although change may not come as quickly as marijuana advocates would like. The liberal state of Oregon rejected a recreational use measure twice, most recently in 2012.