Marijuana legalization continues to enjoy majority support in Colorado, according to a poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University.
The poll found 54 percent of Colorado voters support the state’s marijuana legalization policies, compared to 43 percent who do not – suggesting relatively stable public opinion since the November 2012 Amendment 64 vote, in which 55 percent of Coloradans backed legalization.
Quinnipiac found 67 percent of respondents believe legalization has not “eroded the moral fiber” of Colorado residents – while just 30 percent believe it has.
A majority of respondents said legalization “increases personal freedoms in a positive way,” will save taxpayers money, improves the criminal justice system and has not made driving more dangerous.
The poll results did highlight some areas of concern. About 38 percent said they were somewhat or very concerned about a family member or friend using too much marijuana – and only 3 percent of residents said they’d be more likely to vote for a pot-smoking politician.
“Colorado voters are generally good to go on grass, across the spectrum, from personal freedom to its taxpayer benefits to its positive impact on the criminal justice system," Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a statement. "But if you are a politician, think twice before smokin' them if you got 'em."
Mason Tvert, a co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign and a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, says the results show regulation is working.
“Voters wanted to replace prohibition with a tightly controlled marijuana market for adults, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,” Tvert says. “Rather than wasting law enforcement officials’ time and resources arresting thousands of adults for marijuana possession, the state is generating millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Not only has the sky not fallen, the forecast is as bright as ever.”
Tvert suggests that Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., pay attention to the public’s perception. Hickenlooper has warned of unintended consequences and advised other states not to follow suit.
“Our governor and others who said it would hurt the state are touting the fact that Colorado is seeing growth in new businesses and home prices, as well as decreases in unemployment and crime,” he says.
The poll – conducted April 15-21 with 1,298 registered voters – found 15 percent of respondents admit using marijuana since Jan. 1, the date recreational pot stores opened. A poll conducted Jan. 29-Feb. 2 by Quinnipiac found 10 percent had smoked pot in the preceding month.
The self-reported rate of adult marijuana use following legalization is significantly lower than the rate of use by American high school seniors – 22.7 percent of whom reported past month illegal pot use in 2013, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Lifetime marijuana use among Colorado adults was 49 percent in the most recent poll, slightly lower than the 51 percent figure in Quinnipiac’s Feb. 2014 and Aug. 2013 polls but within the calculated 2.7 percentage point margin of error.
Amendment 64 legalized possession of 1 ounce of marijuana, effective Dec. 10, 2012, for adults over age 21. Colorado residents can legally grow six plants and gift 1 ounce to friends. Medical marijuana patients can possess 2 ounces.
Legalization is reaping a tax windfall for the state – which applies a 25 percent tax rate to sales – and has reduced the rate of arrests. But some pot-related arrests are continuing. In 2013 more than 1,000 people were charged with possession of less than 2 ounces of the drug.
Alaska residents will vote on whether or not to legalize marijuana in November. It’s likely Oregon voters will as well. Activists in Washington, D.C., are petitioning to get the question on the November ballot, but the city’s weak initiative system means the city council and Congress would have to sign off on legalization.