A recent poll released on Tuesday shows that two-thirds of Maryland adults support the legalization of recreational marijuana. The results of the Goucher College Poll come as the state’s lawmakers consider bills that would legalize cannabis for adults and expunge past convictions for some marijuana offenses.
“The Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill to legalize the use of recreational cannabis,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College. “This most recent effort comes on the heels of four states voting to legalize recreational cannabis by ballot measure this past November and, most recently, New Jersey, and Virginia passing adult-use marijuana legalization laws.”
The poll surveyed 725 Maryland adults to ask their opinions on a variety of topics affecting the state. When asked whether they supported “making marijuana legal for recreational use in Maryland,” fully two-thirds (67%) said that they either supported or strongly supported the idea (27% and 40%, respectively). Only 28% said that they opposed recreational marijuana legalization, with 17% strongly opposed to the proposed change.
This year’s poll results show the strongest support for legalizing recreational marijuana in Maryland since the Goucher Poll began asking about the issue in October 2013, when 51% were in favor and 41% opposed legalization. Less than two years ago, 57% of those surveyed were in favor of legalization while 37% said that they were opposed.
Support For Legalization Varies By Political Party Affiliation
The poll found that support for marijuana legalization varied by the political affiliation of the respondents. Among those surveyed who said that they were registered Democrats, 77% said that they supported legalization while 18% were against it. Support among independent voters was somewhat less, with 60% in favor of legalization and 34% opposed.
This year’s Goucher College Poll was the first time that at least half of the respondents who identified as Republicans expressed support for recreational cannabis legalization, with 50% in favor and 47% against legalization.
“We’ve consistently found that a majority of Marylanders support the legalization of recreational cannabis,” said Kromer, “but this is the first time Republican support has reached 50 percent.”
Cannabis Legalization Bills Pending
Lawmakers in both houses of Maryland’s legislature are currently considering cannabis policy reform bills. Last month, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on House Bill 32. Under the measure, possession of up to four ounces of marijuana would be legalized under state law, and convictions for possession or cultivation of marijuana in amounts made legal by the measure would be expunged.
Maryland’s state senators are also debating a measure to legalize marijuana for use by adults. Senate Bill 708 would also legalize small amounts of marijuana for adults and establish a regulated cannabis economy. The bill is supported by leading Senate Democrats, including Senate President Bill Ferguson.
“There’s no doubt that legalization of adult-use cannabis is a complex issue,” Ferguson said last month. “We need to make certain that economic benefits are equitably distributed and criminal justice reform is incorporated.”