April 4, 2013— -- State and federal government agencies spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year to combat the sale and consumption of marijuana, and have arrested millions in an ongoing "war on drugs" that has lasted more than four decades.
But if how Americans view pot is any indication, that war may not last another 40 years.
A majority of Americans now support marijuana legalization, according to a poll released on Thursday by the Pew Center for the People & the Press.
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A national survey by the center found that 52 percent said that the use of pot should be legal while 45 percent said it should remain illegal.
In more than 40 years of polling on the issue, this is the first time most Americans have backed legalization of the drug, according to Pew. In 1969, a Gallup survey found that only 12 percent favored legalization and 84 percent were opposed.
The poll follows a November election where two states -- Washington and Colorado -- legalized marijuana for recreational use. Use of the drug for medical purposes is increasingly accepted across the county, as well. Nearly two dozen states have laws allowing some level of medicinal marijuana use.
Young people are more likely to be in favor of ending pot prohibition.
Legalization had the support of 65 percent of Millenials and 54 percent of Generation Xers in the poll. Half of Baby Boomers back making marijuana legal, according to Pew.
Nearly half of Americans say they've tried smoking weed, but most of them haven't used it lately. Only 12 percent said they had consumed the drug in the past year.
When it comes to government spending on marijuana, opinions were even stronger. Nearly three-quarters, 72 percent, thought that government efforts to enforce pot laws cost more than they're worth.