LOS ANGELES – Slowly but surely, Americans seem to be making peace with the pot pipe.

According to a new poll released Monday by Gallup, 50 percent of Americans say marijuana use should be legal, up from 46 percent last year. This year, 46 percent said it should be illegal.

 

Those numbers mean that, for the first time in the poll’s 42-year history, Americans who say that marijuana should be legal outnumber those who say it should be illegal.

Societal acceptance of marijuana has come a long way since 1969, when Gallup first posed the question “Should marijuana use be legal?” Back then, only 12 percent of Americans favored legalization of the drug. From the 1970s through the mid-1990s, support remained between 20 percent and 30 percent, but it has been climbing steadily since 2002.

According to the most recent poll:

• Men are more likely to support legalizing marijuana than women (55 percent vs. 46 percent).

• People in the West are more likely to support it than people in the East (55 percent vs. 51 percent).

• People age 18 to 29 are twice as likely to support marijuana use as people 65 or older (62 percent vs. 31 percent).

The findings come less than six months after the federal government ruled that marijuana should remain classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means the government considers it as dangerous as heroin.

That now appears slightly out of step with what most Americans think.

A Gallup survey last year found that 70 percent of people favored making it legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana in order to reduce pain and suffering.

Voters in many states, including Maine, have enacted laws allowing marijuana to be used medicinally.
In some states, state-approved dispensaries have become well established, but distribution facilities in Maine are still being developed. Some patients have been receiving small amounts of medical marijuana from a state-sanctioned network of caregivers, who are limited in the number of patients they can provide for.

Eventually there will be eight dispensaries in Maine.

In Portland, Northeast Patients Group, which holds four of Maine’s eight available dispensary permits, hopes to open a dispensary at 685 Congress St. It opened a dispensary in August in Thomaston and is opening a dispensary on Water Street in Hallowell. It is negotiating a lease for a fourth dispensary in the Bangor-Brewer area.

According to Northeast Patients Group, the law allows patients to purchase 2 ounces of prepared marijuana in any 15-day period, or 5 ounces per month. Patients must register with the state after obtaining a recommendation from a doctor.