Six of every 10 New Jerseyans support the penalties for marijuana should be relaxed — with more than half thinking there should be no penalties at all — and one-third would completely legalize its sale and use, according to a poll released on Wednesday. The poll also showed overwhelming levels of support for the medicinal use of cannabis.
The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll has, for almost 40 years, asked New Jersey residents about penalties for marijuana use, and they’ve become more relaxed about the issue, reports New Jersey Newsroom.
Back in May 1972, four in 10 New Jerseyans said penalties for cannabis use should be lowered.
Views on marijuana have become more partisan over the years. In 1972, Democrats and Republicans were only four points apart in supporting the lowering of penalties for marijuana, but the new poll finds the gap has widened to 20 points, with 64 percent of Democrats, but only 44 percent of Republicans supporting reduced penalties.
In 1972, only 40 percent of New Jerseyans believed that penalties for cannabis should be reduced; by the end of the ’70s, that had climbed to 51 percent. Today, more than 58 percent want more lenient laws regarding pot.
At the same time, 86 percent of New Jerseyans support the availability of medical marijuana by prescription, including 92 percent(!) of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans. Fifty-eight percent of independent voters agree.
In the 1972 poll, independents were the strongest supports of marijuana decriminalization at 53 percent. Democrats are Republicans were less likely to agree that pot penalties should be lowered, and were only four points apart on the issue at that time, 42 percent to 38 percent.
People in their 20s were the strongest supporters of marijuana law reform in the 1970s, at 66 percent. That same group — now in their 60s — is still supportive, but only by a 50 percent to 40 percent margin. Voters in their 50s are today’s strongest supporters, with 70 percent supporting the reduction of marijuana penalties.
“As they have aged, the young voters of the 70s have become somewhat less supportive of reduced penalties,” Redlawsk said. “Even so, while senior citizens are often more conservative on social issues, a majority continues to support greater leniency in marijuana use penalties.”
While 58 percent of voters think penalties for marijuana should be reduced, 58 percent also oppose complete legalization of marijuana, with 35 percent supporting legalization.
“When we first asked these questions in the early 1970s, Garden Staters were much less supportive, although attitudes became more liberalized throughout that decade,” said the poll’s director, Professor David Redlawsk. “The change since then is significant, but not unexpected.”
Support For Medical Marijuana Sky-High At 86 Percent
“What is new is the wide support for medical marijuana, even among those who otherwise oppose reducing or eliminating penalties for its recreational use,” Redlawsk said.
While medical marijuana was not on the poll in the 1970s, 86 percent of current respondents favor the legalization of cannabis for medicinal uses. Support for medical marijuana is strong across almost all groups of voters, though it is stronger among the more highly educated (92 percent) compared to those with a high school education or less (80 percent).
Age doesn’t seem to be much of a factor when it comes to medical marijuana in Jersey; residents older than 65 were almost as likely to support medical marijuana as those under 45, according to the poll.
Voters with household incomes under $50,000 a year are slightly less supportive of medical marijuana, at 84 percent, than higher earners (90 percent). Catholics (87 percent) are stronger supporters than Protestants (82 percent), while almost all Jewish respondents support medicinal cannabis.
Race seems to play some role, with whites (86 percent) being more supportive of medical marijuana than blacks (78 percent).
“The slowness with which the Christie administration appears to be implementing the medical marijuana law passed at the end of the Corzine administration seems to fly in the face of public opinion,” Redlawsk said. “While recent reports say some of the problem is related to the difficulties of opening the dispensaries called for under the law, public support for the concept is very strong.”