Red state? Blue state? When it comes to voters’ opinions on marijuana law reform, virtually all states are green.
According to a slew of recent statewide polls, voters’ support for legalizing marijuana crosses conventional red/blue boundaries. From Arizona (red) to Maryland (blue) and virtually all points in between, a solid majority of voters are in agreement that the time for legalization is now.
Here is a closer look at some of the more recent polls:
Arizona imposes some of the most serious penalties in the nation on marijuana offenders. But a majority of state residents are saying enough. Fifty-six percent of Arizonans favor "legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use," according to the findings of a Rocky Mountain Poll conducted in May by the nonpartisan Behavior Research Center. Surprising? Perhaps to America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff, Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio. But not to state voters. In January, 59% of Arizonans also said that they backed legalizing cannabis.
Californians narrowly rejected Prop. 19 in 2010, but today they appear ready to take the legalization plunge. Sixty percent of likely California voters say “marijuana should be made legal,” according to a September poll of 1,703 respondents commissioned by the Public Policy Institute of California. The level of public support was the highest ever reported by the polling firm. Sixty-eight percent of likely California voters also told pollsters that the US government should not enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states that have approved the plant’s use.
Florida politicians may just say no to medical marijuana law reform, but their constituents say otherwise. Seventy percent of Floridians support the passage of an amendment to the state constitution to allow for the physician-recommended use of cannabis, according to a January 2013 survey conducted by Hamilton Campaigns and commissioned by the advocacy group People United for Medical Marijuana (now United for Care). Only 24% of Floridians oppose such an amendment -- arguably all of them elected officials.
Kentucky voters may not yet support legalizing cannabis for everyone. But a strong majority believes that the plant ought to be available for medicinal purposes. Seventy-eight percent of state residents back plans to allow doctors to authorize cannabis, according to the results of the 2013 Kentucky Health Issues Poll, released in August. State politicians are anticipated to reintroduce legislation in 2014 to allow for the plant’s therapeutic use.
The Big Easy is anything but easy on cannabis offenders. Under state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are punishable by up to six months in jail while second offenses may be punished by up to five years incarceration. Sounds crazy? Most Louisiana voters think so. They back legalizing and regulating the consumption of cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol, according to survey data released in September by Public Policy Polling. Fifty-three percent of respondents endorsed regulating and taxing cannabis for those age 21 and older. Sixty-five percent of respondents also expressed support for legalizing the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, while 56% of respondents approved of decriminalizing pot possession.
Will Maryland become the next state to decriminalize cannabis? Maybe so. Two-thirds of Maryland residents support eliminating jail time for minor marijuana offenses and a solid majority back legalizing and regulating the plant’s retail production and sale like alcohol, according to survey data made public this week. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they supported decriminalizing marijuana for personal use, up from 57% in 2011. Public support also grew for legalization. Fifty-three percent of respondents endorsed legalizing the plant, up from just 40% one year ago.
Great Lakes State voters are not fond of prohibition. Nearly 80% of Michigan voters favor eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, according to survey data released last month by Epic-MRA Polling. Forty-seven percent of respondents said that they backed legalizing marijuana “by taxing it and regulating it like alcohol.” An additional 16% of respondents endorsed “replac[ing] criminal penalties for marijuana offenses with a fine” only. Another four percent of respondents supported an outright “repeal” of all state criminal penalties for cannabis offenses. Only 26% of those polled said that supported continuing the present system of state criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.
New Hampshire (blue)
State politicians approved medical cannabis reform in 2013. Broader reforms may be soon to follow. A solid majority of New Hampshire voters back amending the state’s pot possession laws. According to survey data released in January by Public Policy Polling, 62% of voters endorse eliminating criminal penalties for minor cannabis possession offenses, while 53% of Granite State citizens want to see the plant legalized outright. Only about one-third of New Hampshire voters said they opposed the notion of allowing licensed retailers to sell marijuana to those age 21 or older.
It doesn’t get much redder than Oklahoma, where marijuana sales are punishable by up to life in prison. Yet, the public’s support for such stiff penalties remains as unpopular in the Sooner State as they do elsewhere. According to survey data released in September by SoonerPoll.com and commissioned by the Oklahoma state affiliate of NORML, a majority of likely Oklahoma voters back legalizing the use of medical marijuana and also support depenalizing pot possession penalties for recreational users. Seventy-one percent of respondents said that they support amending state law to allow for physician-authorized patients to consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Fifty-seven percent of respondents also said that they preferred treating minor marijuana violations as a non-criminal, fine-only offense. Finally, over 81% of Oklahoma respondents agreed that state lawmakers, not the federal government, ought to be the final arbiters to decide whether "[state] laws regarding whether the use of marijuana [are] legal or not."