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Poll: Americans Oppose Legalizing Marijuana, Lowering Drinking Age

A majority of Americans oppose legalizing marijuana and lowering the drinking age even if it would mean economic benefits for cash-strapped state and local governments, a new CBS News survey finds.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans say marijuana should be illegal, even after being presented with the idea that the drug could be taxed. Thirty-one percent say it should be legal, while another seven percent say it should be legal if it is taxed and the money goes to projects.

California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill in his economically struggling state calling for legalizing the drug and regulating it in much the same way alcohol is regulated. The California Board of Equalization, which collects taxes, estimates California's possible revenue from doing so at $1.3 billion per year.

More than 500 economists, including Milton Friedman, have endorsed the notion of legalizing marijuana for the potential economic benefits taxing it could provide. President Obama opposes marijuana legalization.

Read The Entire Poll (PDF)>

Asked about whether they favored lowering the drinking age to 18 – a change, they were told, that could allow police more time to enforce laws besides underage drinking – roughly three in four Americans expressed their opposition. Just 24 percent said they favored such a move.

The strongest support for lowering the drinking age comes from Americans under 30, but even six in ten in this group are opposed.

As CBS' 60 Minutes reported last month, some believe that lowering the drinking age could actually make young people safer, though others strongly disagree.

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This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1142 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone March 12-16, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.
This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
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