— -- A majority of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, according to a new Marist poll that was conducted in partnership with Yahoo.
The poll found that 52 percent of U.S. adults have tried marijuana at least once and 56 percent of Americans find the drug "socially acceptable."
While eight out of 10 Americans strongly support legalizing medical marijuana, there is a clear divide over the legalization of recreational marijuana; Forty-nine percent of American adults support legalization while 47 percent oppose it.
Dr. Donald Abrams, an oncologist at University of California San Francisco who has studied marijuana, said the high percentage of people in favor of medicinal marijuana is not surprising.
Many "have had family members or friends who have benefited from the use medicinally," Abrams said. "I hear it all the time."
The poll comes as more states are legalizing both recreational and medicinal marijuana. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and today 29 states have laws providing for medicinal marijuana or cannabis and eight states have passed laws legalizing recreational use of the drug in some form.
Despite more people having access to the drug, just 14 percent of Americans over the age of 18 say they use marijuana regularly or at least once or twice a month. The poll also finds that a stigma is still associated with the drug.
Overall, 70 percent of poll respondents believe their parents would be unhappy to learn they were using marijuana recreationally.
In comparison, the poll found that 58 percent of parents think their children would disapprove if they found out their mother or father enjoyed marijuana recreationally.
Just 39 percent of parents say their children have tried or currently uses marijuana.
That number is almost true in reverse, with just 36 percent of Americans saying at least one parent has tried or regularly uses marijuana.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance, which focuses on drug policy reform, said some parents may hide recreational drug use over concerns they will set a bad example.
"You go to someone's house ... you have the parents share a joint and down the hall the teenager will share a joint and neither will know," he said.
Nadelmann said that changes in how marijuana is ingested may also contribute to how people view the drug.
"As marijuana has been accepted medically, it's less about the marijuana high," Nadelmann said, pointing out that people may now increasingly see elderly family members use the drug to help cope with a variety of ailments.
Americans do have concerns about the health risks of marijuana, but those concerns pale in comparison to concerns over cigarettes and alcohol. Fifty-one percent of Americans think consumption of marijuana is a health risk. However, far more Americans say drinking alcohol regularly (72 percent) is a threat to health over regular marijuana use (20 percent.)
More Americans also think that regular tobacco use (76 percent) is far more risky than regular marijuana use (18 percent.)
The poll was done by surveying 1,122 adults between March 1 through March 7 of this year. The Marist Poll was sponsored and funded in partnership with Yahoo. Results are statistically significant within ±2.9 percentage points.