Poll Shows Solid Majority of New Jersey Residents Want Legal Pot

But Republicans Holding Out
Feb 27, 2019

State Sen. Christopher Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove say the majority of their constituents oppose legalized recreational pot in New Jersey. Yet a Monmouth University Poll released last week showed 62 percent of Garden State adults support legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use while just 32 percent oppose it. (See accompanying story.)

Who is right, the 9th Legislative District delegation, which represents all of Southern Ocean County in the State House, or the pollsters? Probably both.

You have to break the Monmouth University poll down to see how that can be. It showed that 72 percent of Democrats support legalization along with 61 percent of independents. Only 47 percent of Republicans want to see recreational pot legalized. The 9th District leans decidedly Republican.

Age also plays a role in the difference between the 9th District and the state as a whole. The Monmouth University poll, which had a margin of error of +/-4.0 percent and which was conducted by telephone from Feb. 8 to 10 with 604 respondents, showed 81 percent of adults between the age of 18 and 34 support legalization while only 53 percent of people 55 years of age and older want legal recreational pot. The 9th District has a huge senior citizen population.

As time ticks on, and with more and more states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, New Jersey’s public seems to be tilting more and more toward supporting legal weed. A Monmouth University poll conducted a year ago showed 59 percent of adults supporting legalizing marijuana for recreational use while 37 percent opposed that move. And according to the pollsters, only 48 percent of New Jersey residents wanted legal recreational pot five years ago while 47 percent didn’t.

“We find widespread public support for legalizing marijuana, but the devil is in the details,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “A question mark for some New Jerseyans is whether the state can set up an adequate regulatory system.”

While 62 percent of those polled want to see recreational pot legalized – in small amounts and for folks 21 years of age and older – just 50 percent want such people to be able to buy their pot from state-licensed businesses. Meanwhile, 34 percent of those responding to the poll thought state-licensed stores were a bad idea, and 17 percent hadn’t made up their minds.

Even that idea, however, has been gaining support. In 2014, only 36 percent of those polled thought state-regulated stores were the way to go while 45 percent were opposed.

When those supporting legalization were asked why they do so by pollsters, 40 percent said increased tax revenues and economic gains were a key reason for their support. Another 28 percent said prosecuting marijuana possession cases and jailing users are a waste of resources while 21 percent said pot is not as harmful or no more harmful than alcohol. Other reasons cited for supporting legalized cannabis include medical benefits (14 percent), the inability to stop illegal use (8 percent) and the fact that other states are already legalizing the product (5 percent).

Respondents who opposed the legalization of recreational weed also have a variety of reasons for doing so. The major reason, at a 28 percent clip, was they felt pot use is harmful or addictive. Other major reasons for rejecting legal pot – reflecting the concerns of Connors, Rumpf and Gove – include traffic safety (21 percent) and the worry that minors will get access to pot (20 percent). Meanwhile, some respondents were worried legal recreational marijuana would lead to decreased productivity at work (6 percent) and would be difficult to regulate (6 percent), along with those who said the legalization effort was concerned only about raising state revenues (5 percent) and that pot should be limited to medical use (5 percent).

Interestingly, a solid majority of people of all political stripes and all ages support expunging the records of people previously convicted of possessing small amounts of pot. According to the poll, a whopping 81 percent of Democrats support such expungement, and 73 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans agree. The age breakdown is similar, with 81 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34 supporting expungement along with 74 percent of those aged 35 to 54 and 67 percent of those age 55 or older.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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