Marijuana reformers were thrilled when the latest Gallup Poll finally confirmed what eight other polls have already told us since 2009 -- a majority in America wants to legalize marijuana by taxing it and regulating it in a manner similar to alcohol.
Our friends in the “red states” -- highly conservative states that usually vote Republican and usually hate on weed -- often take these polls with a grain of salt. “Oh sure,” they’ll complain, “It may be 58% support for legalization nationwide, but over here the folks just aren’t ready for it.” This leads some activists to abandon hope for marijuana legalization and cast their sights on goals less threatening to the prohibition status quo, like decriminalization or medical marijuana exceptions.
But the latest slate of polls shows that even in states where you’re likely to find a Piggly Wiggly or a rabid anti-drug Congressman, there is majority support not just for medical marijuana, but taxed and regulated marijuana for healthy people as well:
Indiana: The latest 2013 Hoosiers survey conducted by Ball State University found that 52% of Indiana residents supported “making marijuana a regulated substance like alcohol and tobacco." Democrats, of course, supported it at near super-majority levels (64%) but even a plurality of Republicans (49%) supported legalization. Astoundingly, when the question was modified to ask about taxing marijuana like cigarettes, support jumped to 78% among all respondents, with near equal support regardless of party. Will this mark a shift from “treat it like alcohol” to “treat it like cigarettes?”
Missouri: When given a quick description of Show-Me Cannabis’ plan to legalize marijuana in Missouri, the firm of DHM Research found that a plurality of 50% of voters were “strongly in favor” or “leaning towards” marijuana legalization. When the details of the plan are explained at length, support rose four points to 54% support with 44% opposed.
Texas: Lone Star State voters surprised everyone when MPP’s latest poll showed that 58% of them are in favor of “making marijuana legal for adults and treating it like alcohol.” Even more surprising was that legalization found the exact same level of support as medical marijuana at 58% and decriminalization did only marginally better at 61%. Could Texas become the first state to bypass medical marijuana and move straight to recreational legalization?
Louisiana: Support for medical marijuana in the Bayou State still is much greater than support for legalization, with almost two-out-of-three voters (65%) supporting special exceptions to criminal prosecution for medical use of cannabis. However, a majority, 53% of Louisiana voters support taxing and regulating marijuana for healthy adults, with just 37% in opposition.
Florida: St. Pete Polls conducted an August survey that found huge support for medical marijuana, with 73.5% of Floridians supporting a Constitutional amendment to institute protections for the sick and dying who use cannabis. However, a whopping 58.8% of Floridians support the idea that “marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol and be made legal for any adult to use” with just 35.4% opposition.
The problem, of course, is translating political support into political change. Voters in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana can want legalization, but without the power of ballot initiatives, they are forced to wait for reluctant politicians who prefer the status quo of prohibition. Voters in Florida can try to pass a Constitutional amendment, but that requires 60% of the vote, so activists are focusing on medical marijuana. Only in Missouri do they have the shot at passing legalization by signature drive ballot initiative.