- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In a dramatic switch from recent decades, a clear majority of Americans say smoking marijuana on a recreational basis should be legal.

In fact, a new CNN-ORC International poll indicates that the moral stigma attached with smoking the drug has plummeted, too, and now fewer find fault with the activity in terms of seeing it as a sign of subpar values.

Specifically: Fully 55 percent of survey respondents said marijuana should be legal. Only 44 percent said it should remain illegal.

CNN said Americans have been slowly but steadily embracing the idea of legalized marijuana for the last 25 years. In 1987, about 16 percent supported legalizing the drug. In 1996, that statistic was 26 percent; in 2002, it was 34 percent, and just a couple years ago, it was 43 percent.

But this is the first time a clear majority found sense in legalizing the drug.

Still, there are several key demographic differences, CNN said.

“There are big differences on age, region, party ID and gender, with senior citizens, Republicans and Southerners the only major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot,” said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

For example: Two-thirds of those between the ages of 18 and 34 said pot should be legal. Only 64 percent between the ages of 34 and 49 felt similarly, CNN reported.

The findings show a major shift in American culture since the days of President Nixon, who declared drugs “public enemy Number One,” and 65 percent in the country agreed that marijuana use was a serious problem.

“Attitudes toward the effects of marijuana and whether it is morally wrong to smoke pot have changed dramatically over time,” Mr. Holland said. “That also means that marijuana use is just not all that important to Americans any longer.”