SEATTLE (CBS SEATTLE) — A slight majority of Americans favor both the legalization of marijuana, and that the federal government should back off of state pot laws.

Men were more likely to favor legalization than women, who oppose it 52 percent to 44 percent. Voters 18 to 29 years old support legalization overwhelmingly, 69-29 percent. This information is according to a Quinnipiac University/CBS News poll, conducted from Nov. 28 – Dec. 3 among 1,949 registered voters.

In total, 51 percent of voters support the legalization of pot for recreational purposes, while 44 percent oppose it.

“With the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes legal in about 20 states, and Washington and Colorado voting this November to legalize the drug for recreational use, American voters seem to have a more favorable opinion about this once-dreaded drug,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, told CBS News. “There are large differences on this question among the American people.”

On Thursday, Washington became the first state to officially legalize marijuana, and it will soon be followed by Colorado as their new laws go into effect.

A recent YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 51 percent of Americans think the federal government should exempt all adults following those states’ laws from criminal drug enforcement. Thirty percent said the federal government should enforce its drug laws in those states just like they are any other state.

The New York Times has reported that the Obama administration and Justice Department officials are planning legal action against the two states to undermine their voter-approved initiatives.

“Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law,” the Times reported.

The Times continued, “Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol.”


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