Support for legalization of marijuana has risen to nearly 60 percent among U.S. adults, according to a study published on Wednesday, marking a near reversal of attitudes held only a decade ago.
More relaxed views about marijuana have led around two dozen states to allow legal access of some type of the drug and more U.S. states are set to vote on marijuana related measures on Nov. 8.
The Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of adults in the United States said the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37 percent said it should be illegal.
Ten years ago, just 32 percent of adults favored legalization, while 60 percent were opposed to it.
Opinions on marijuana are divided starkly along political party lines, the poll from the Washington-based center found, with Democrats supporting legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal by more than two-to-one.
Sixty-six percent of Democrats favor legalizing marijuana while 30 percent believe it should be illegal.
Among Republicans, 41 percent favor legalization and 55 percent are opposed to it, according to the poll, which drew responses from 1,201 U.S. adults.
Five U.S. states – Massachusetts, Maine, California, Arizona and Nevada – will vote on Nov. 8 on whether to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Four other states are voting on access to medical marijuana.
Two human rights groups on Wednesday called on U.S. states and the federal government to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use, citing the damage done by more than 574,000 arrests for marijuana possession each year.
Among U.S. voters, Liberal Democrats were most in favor of marijuana legalization, with 78 percent supporting it, according to the Pew study. Millennial adults between the ages of 18 and 35 are the age group most in favor of legalization with 71 percent in support.
Within the Republican party, there is a sharp contrast between moderate and liberal Republicans and their more conservative counterparts, according to the poll.
Sixty-three percent of moderate and liberal Republicans are in favor of legalization. Just 33 percent of conservative Republicans share this view, with 62 percent saying marijuana should be illegal.
Some 24 states and Washington D.C. currently allow some type of medical marijuana use, and a handful of states allow its recreational use.
(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Hay)