Breaking: There Are a Lot of Pot Smokers in the U.S.

PHOTO: pot

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New federal stats show that a lot of people continue to smoke marijuana -- and that usage is actually increasing.

You must be so surprised.

An estimated 18.9 million people use marijuana, according to an annual survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Need perspective? If you got all those ganja users together, they would fill the cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Miami.

Pot consumption has been on the rise in recent years. In 2007, 5.8 percent of those surveyed said they had used the drug in the past month. That figure went up to 7.3 percent in 2012.

Check out this chart:

chart

The latest stats come as two states -- Colorado and Washington -- look to normalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

The feds have said they won’t interfere with the legalization plans as long as those state follow certain rules.

Wait, there's more. Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder also announced that the federal government would alter its policies to go easier on low-level drug offenders.

Despite the new approach, however, federal and local law enforcement agencies still spend a lot of time hunting down marijuana users and sellers.

Look at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for instance. Marijuana made up 94 percent of the total amount of drugs seized by the agency in 2011, judging by weight.

And nationally, a little more than half of all drug arrests were for marijuana in 2010, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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More than half of Americans support marijuana legalization. Still, the federal government considers it a dangerous drug. This is a look at the science, the conversations, and the politics of pot.

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