A significant majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana and regulating it either with the same rules that apply to alcohol or with fewer restrictions, according to a new poll. The survey was released on April 20 and made headlines because 55 percent of respondents said they oppose legalizing marijuana.
But digging deeper into the poll finds that, when pot is compared to alcohol, support for reforming the laws surges. Forty-four percent of respondents said that "the regulations on marijuana [should] be the same as those for alcohol." Another 12 percent said they should be "less strict," meaning that a full 56 percent support the policy change -- perhaps the highest number ever recorded in favor of legalization. (Alcohol is, after all, legal.)
The poll of 1,001 Americans GfK Roper for CNBC's "Marijuana & Money" report. The margin of error was 4.3 points.
By a 2 to 1 margin, people said that if marijuana were legalized, they would favor allowing the government to tax sales of marijuana.
The survey comes as California voters consider whether to legalize marijuana in the fall elections and groups in Washington state and Oregon are pushing to get similar legislation on the ballot in their states. A CBS News poll, also released on April 20, found that 55 percent of voters in the west support legalizing pot.
UPDATE: A new SurveyUSA poll has the California initiative up 56-42, with support strongest among those 18-34. Voters over 65 oppose it 54-39 and are also the most likely to vote in a midterm election.
Ryan Grim is the author of "This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America"