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March 04, 2015

Many Americans approve of pot legalization: Reuters/Ipsos

Forty-four percent of respondents supported legalizing the use of marijuana

NEW YORK - Nearly half of Americans favor making marijuana legal and think Congress shouldn't be able to intervene in local pot laws in Washington, D.C., according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Forty-four percent of respondents supported legalizing the use of marijuana, the online poll of 1,906 adults from Feb. 27 through March 2 showed.

Thirty-five percent opposed such legalization, with 21 percent unsure. 

Possession of small amounts of marijuana became legal in the District of Columbia on Feb. 26 despite opposition from the Republican-led U.S. Congress.

Though marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, the District of Columbia joined the states of Alaska, Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational pot use, and a measure similar to the District's comes into effect in Oregon in July.

"These results show that we can only expect more states to move forward in the next two years," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat.

The issue could resonate in the 2016 presidential election.

"It doesn't necessarily fall down the clear Republican-Democrat divide that we often see," said Chris Jackson, a research director with Ipsos.

Rep. Don Young, an Alaskan Republican in Congress, said:   "This has always been an issue of states' rights for me, a position based upon a strong belief in the 10th Amendment and the principals of federalism established by our founders."

"My position aims to reaffirm the states' rights to determine the nature of criminal activity within their jurisdictions."    

The field of potential Republican 2016 presidential contenders includes a range of views on marijuana.

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, Sen. Ted Cruz suggested states should be able to decide the issue for themselves.

"If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that's their prerogative. I don't agree with it, but that's their right," Cruz said.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, however, has repeatedly said he will not legalize marijuana, saying in a radio interview last April: "It's not going to come while I'm here."

While congressional Republicans warned that Washington, D.C.'s move was illegal, many respondents in the Reuters/Ipsos poll disagreed with legislators' intervention in the D.C. law.

Forty-six percent of respondents said Congress shouldn't be able to intervene to prevent marijuana possession from becoming legal in the District, while 31 percent disagreed and 24 percent were unsure. The numbers do not add up to 100 due to rounding.

The poll had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.