Fifty-six percent of Americans think marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco, according to a nationwide Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters.

Asked earlier this month, "Would you favor or oppose legalizing marijuana and regulating it in the similar manner to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are regulated today?" only 36 percent of likely voters opposed the concept and 8 percent were undecided.

Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop and the executive director of advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, sees the poll as a political weather vane pointing toward the future.

"Polling now consistently shows that more voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana than support continuing a failed prohibition approach," he said in a statement Tuesday. "Yet far too many politicians continue to act as if marijuana policy reform is some dangerous third rail they dare not touch. If the trends in public opinion continue in the direction they are going, the day is not far away when supporting a prohibition system that causes so much crime, violence and corruption is going to be seen as a serious political liability for those seeking support from younger and independent voters. Savvy forward-looking politicians are already beginning to see which way the wind is blowing."

Indeed, the Rasmussen poll is far from the first to find the majority support legalizing marijuana.

Public opinion aside, the Obama administration has pursued an inter-agency crackdown on the cannabis industry, with raids on pot dispensaries, many in California operating in full compliance with state law. Since October 2009, the Justice Department has conducted more than 170 SWAT-style raids in nine states that allow medical marijuana, resulting in at least 61 federal indictments, according to data compiled by Americans for Safe Access.

While medical marijuana has been legalized by 17 states and the District of Columbia, federal law prohibits any use of marijuana.

The poll, conducted on May 12, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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