Last November voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, but the drug remains illegal under federal law. As the Obama administration contemplates how to deal with society’s growing acceptance of marijuana, a new Reason-Rupe poll finds an overwhelming number of Americans believe people should be free to use, grow and sell marijuana if their states have legalized the drug.

As Jacob Sullum wrote earlier, if a state legalizes marijuana, 72 percent of Americans believe the federal government should not arrest marijuana users in that state, while 24 percent think the federal government should arrest them. Seventy-seven percent of those who approve of the job President Obama is doing say the federal government should not arrest marijuana users in Colorado and Washington.

Similarly, 68 percent, say the federal government should not arrest marijuana growers in states that have legalized the drug. Twenty-nine percent say growers should still be arrested under federal law in those states.

Nearly two-thirds, 64 percent, of Americans say the federal government should not arrest marijuana sellers in states that have legalized marijuana, while 32 percent feel sellers should be arrested by the feds.

Republicans usually make the case for federalism, but in all three instances—smoking, growing, selling—Reason-Rupe finds higher numbers of independents and Democrats embrace the federalist argument that the federal government should stand down in states that have legalized marijuana.

The Reason-Rupe poll also finds a majority of Americans, 53 percent, agree that marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol, while 45 percent disagree.  Fifty-eight percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats favor treating marijuana like alcohol. Meanwhile just 35 percent of Republicans favor treating marijuana like alcohol, 62 percent oppose doing so.  Interestingly, a majority of Independent-leaning Republicans favor treating marijuana like alcohol while fully partisan Republicans are the only political group in opposition.

Overall, Reason-Rupe finds 49 percent oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use and 47 percent support legalizing it. That finding is within the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 3.8 percent. Democrats narrowly oppose legalizing marijuana (48-46) and Republicans overwhelmingly oppose legalizing marijuana (70-25).  Yet Independents, including majorities of both Independent-leaning Democrats and Independent-leaning Republicans favor legalizing marijuana for recreational use 71-28 and 53-46 respectively. Similarly, men favor legalizing it (52-45) but women oppose it (53-42). All age groups 64-years-old and younger support legalizing marijuana but people 65 and older oppose it (67-29).

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 1,000 adults on mobile (500) and landline (500) phones from January 17-21, 2013. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide survey. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.8%Full methodology can be found here. Full poll results found here.

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.