Legal weed could pass in all nine states voting on it this November
Support for marijuana legalization has hit an all-time high in the U.S., according to two recent national polls, raising the possibility that legal weed could pass in all nine states where it’s on the ballot in the Nov. 8 election.
A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that public support for legal marijuana use has hit 60 percent among U.S. adults, the highest percentage of support recorded in 47 years by the polling firm. That squares with another poll released last week by Pew Research Center, which found that 57 percent of U.S. adults say marijuana use should be made legal, with just 37 percent saying it should remain illegal.
Four states — Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska — have legalized recreational marijuana use by adults, and 25 now have some type of medical pot laws on the books. Nine more states could join the club on Nov. 8, with five — California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine — set to decide on recreational proposals, and four others poised to vote on medical measures.
Tom Angell, founder of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said the Gallup poll was particularly encouraging for the future of legal weed because it showed that 77 percent of people under 34 are on board with changing the law.
“The topline number obviously bodes well for the marijuana measures on state ballots next month,” Angell said. “But what gives me even more hope are the demographic breakdowns showing just how strongly young people support ending prohibition. It’s more clear than ever that legalization is the future.”
The pollsters echoed Angell’s assessment. Pew noted that millennials — people aged 18 to 35 — are more than twice as likely to support marijuana legalization as they were in 2006, while Gallup wrote that “the question of whether the drug should be legal may become when it will be legal.”
Three weeks ahead of the election, here’s where the various state legalization proposals stand, according to the polls:
California: A poll of 725 likely voters released on Oct. 17 found that Proposition 64, which would legalize and tax the recreational use of marijuana, is projected to pass based on the current 51 percent in favor to 40 percent opposed, with 8 percent still undecided.
Massachusetts: The latest polls show 55 percent of likely voters will cast ballots in support of Question 4, which would legalize recreational marijuana. A poll last month by the same outlet projected a tighter race, with 50 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.
Nevada: A recent poll of 800 likely voters by the Las Vegas Review-Journal called the decision on recreational measure Question 2 “too close to call,” with 47 percent saying they’d vote yes, 46 percent no, and 7 percent undecided.
Arizona: A poll of likely voters conducted just as ballots in the state were mailed out on Oct. 14 found recreational measure Proposition 205 falling just shy of the 50 percent threshold necessary for passage, with 49.8 percent of respondents saying they’d vote yes and 45.3 percent opposed. A poll last month had it passing, but just barely.
Maine: A statewide survey of likely voters released Sept. 26 by Portland Press Herald found that 53 percent support Question 1 on the ballot, which would legalize recreational marijuana. The poll found 38 percent of respondents opposed and 10 percent undecided at the time.
For the medical marijuana measures, polls show that Florida’s Amendment 2 has the support of 69 percent of likely voters; and one of the two proposals on the ballot Arkansas has majority support, with 49 percent in favor and 43 percent against.
There’s no polling data available for Montana and North Dakota, but Montana’s last medical marijuana initiative (the new one would expand access) passed in 2004 with 62 percent of the vote, and a 2014 poll of North Dakota residents found 47 percent in favor of medical pot and 41 percent opposed.
Angell said a sweep on Election Day could push Congress to change federal marijuana laws, while defeats in just a few key states, like California and Massachusetts, have the potential to keep lawmakers reluctant to embrace legalization.
“It greatly accelerates our ability to change federal law and federal prohibition,” he said. “Conversely, if we lose all or most of the nine states, or the most import ones, that will probably give a lot of members of Congress pause about sponsoring and introducing laws and amendments in the future.”
Regardless of the outcome, opponents of legalization have already vowed to continue advocating for prohibition. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, suggested that voters could eventually “change their minds when they see legalization in action.” Even if the legal weed proposals go 9-0, he said, he won’t give up the fight.
“This is a long fight, not won or lost in an election cycle,” he added. “I have a very long view on this. The pendulum will swing back toward disapproval — the question is when, not if.”