DARKE COUNTY – According to recent studies, support for the use of marijuana is increasing, with a new poll indicating that more than half of Americans favor its legalization.
In a new CNN/ORC poll, 55 percent of those questioned said marijuana should be made legal, with 44 percent disagreeing.
According to the CNN poll and numbers from General Social Survey polling, support for legalizing marijuana has climbed over the past 25 years, from 16 percent in 1987 to 26 percent in 1996, 34 percent in 2002, and 43 percent in 2012.
The poll indicated that Republicans and Southerners are the major demographic groups who still oppose the legal use of pot.
The poll, conducted Jan. 3 to 5, also indicates that the number of people who say that smoking pot is morally wrong has plunged.
The biggest change indicated by the poll was the drop in the number of people who said smoking pot is morally wrong. In 1987, 70 percent of the people polled said it was a sin.
But in 2014, the number of people who claimed smoking was ethically wrong was halved to 35 percent.
The poll comes amidst several states changing their own marijuana policies, and legislation is expected to continue being evaluated throughout the next few years.
Since 1996, 20 states and Washington, DC have passed laws allowing smoked marijuana to be used for a variety of medical conditions.
However, Ohio remains one of the states that does not allow use of marijuana for any reason, and last August Attorney General Mike DeWine rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana in the state.
Individual state laws vary greatly in their guidelines and implementation, and many states are hosting ongoing internal debates about the safety and and legality of their marijuana laws.
On Jan. 1, Colorado became the first state to allow the sale of recreational marijuana to anyone age 21 or older.
Colorado residents can now buy marijuana like they would alcohol, however their purchases are limited to an ounce, which is estimated at costing about $200 or more. Out of state residents are limited to a quarter of an ounce.
In Colorado, 55 percent of voters approved Colorado Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. It’s still illegal to possess and use marijuana if you’re under the age of 21, however fines are traditionally issued in place of jail time.
Washington also voted to legalize the drug, and the state is expected to open retail stores later in 2014.
Despite technically violating federal law pertaining to marijuana use, the Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memorandum in August affirming that the U.S. Justice Department will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with statewide efforts to license and regulate the adult marijuana market.
Both states point to decriminalization as a way to generate additional tax revenue and boost their tourism industries.
In Colorado, retail marijuana carries a 25 percent state excise tax with a sales tax of 2.9 percent, and state officials expected millions of dollars in first-year sales revenue.
Now in 2014, the debate continues as marijuana advocacy groups are continuing to expand the plant’s footprint, both for medicinal and recreational use.
Last year, the Ohio Right Group, a therapeutic marijuana and hemp advocacy group garnered the certification of Ohio Attorney General and the Ohio Ballot Board to green-light the gathering of more than 385,245 signatures of registered Ohio voters necessary for placement on the fall 2014 ballot.