(CBS) This story was written by Charles Cooper and Declan McCullagh as part of a new CBSNews.com special report on the evolving debate over marijuana legalization in the U.S. Click here for more of the series, Marijuana Nation: The New War Over Weed
Norm Stamper still remembers the day, nearly six decades ago, when a police detective visited his elementary school class to warn of the dangers of smoking the "devil weed."
"That was the term he used -- and he even brought along a bag of marijuana to show us," said Stamper, 65, who would later become Seattle's police chief. "I remember him saying something to the effect that, 'If you smoke this, it will rot the membrane in your nose.' He was an authority figure, and so I figured he could tell me something about the dangers of this drug. That was my early education about marijuana."
By today's standards, such a warning might sound as dated as the bug-eyed, morally-depraved pot fiends portrayed in the 1936 movie Reefer Madness.
But it was in line with the prevailing view of the 1950s, which considered marijuana to be not just a dangerous drug, but a stepping stone to the use of heroin or even more dangerous controlled substances. In 1979, 27 percent of Americans favored legalization, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll at the time.
A new CBS News poll released today finds that more Americans now support legalization. Forty-one percent said they think marijuana should be made legal and 52 percent are opposed. That's even more than in a CBS News poll in March when 31 percent said they were in favor of legalization in all cases with another seven percent saying they would favor legalization if marijuana were taxed and the money went to projects. (Read more from the poll.)