Nationwide marijuana legalization seems inevitable to three-fourths of Americans, whether they support it or not, according to a new poll out Wednesday.
The Pew Research Center survey on the nation's shifting attitudes about drug policy also showed increased support for moving away from mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
The telephone survey found that 75 percent of respondents - including majorities of both supporters and opponents of legal marijuana- think that the sale and use of pot eventually will be legal nationwide. It was the first time that question had been asked.
Some 39 percent of respondents said pot should be legal for personal adult use. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said it should be legal only for medicinal use. Just 16 percent said it should not be legal at all.
The responses come as two states have legalized recreational marijuana, with more than 20 states and Washington, D.C., allowing some medical use of the drug.
"It's just a matter of time before it's in more states," said Steve Pratley of Denver, a 51-year-old pipefitter who voted for legalization in Colorado in 2012.
Pratley, who did not participate in the Pew survey, agreed with 76 percent of respondents who said people who use small amounts of marijuana shouldn't go to jail.
"If marijuana isn't legalized, it fills up the jails, and that's just stupid," Pratley said.
Legalization opponents, however, drew a distinction between making pot legal for all and thinking that pot users belong in jail.
"It's an illegal drug, period. I don't see it spreading," said Laura Sanchez, a 55-year-old retiree in Denver who voted against legalization. She agreed that pot smokers don't belong in jail, but she disagreed with legalization.
"I've seen no proof that it's good for anybody," said Sanchez, who also did not participate in the survey.
The poll suggested that despite shifting attitudes on legalization, the public remains concerned about drug abuse, with 32 percent of those surveyed calling it a crisis and 55 percent of respondents viewing it as a serious national problem.
And a narrow majority, 54 percent, said marijuana legalization would lead to more underage people trying it.