Poll: Majority of Michigan voters back pot legalization

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — A majority of Michigan voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to a new poll showing that support is far stronger among residents who have personally used the drug.

About 57 percent of the 600 likely voters said they support legalization compared with 37 percent who were opposed, according to the Glengariff Group poll provided to The Detroit News and WDIV.

Prior use of marijuana tended to result in more support for legalization. Of those who had previously tried marijuana, 73 percent said they supported legalization, while 41 percent backed legalization even though they said they never had tried the drug.

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, found that 48 percent said they had tried marijuana, while 49 percent said they hadn’t.

The poll seems to reflect the national trend of increasing support for marijuana legalization, according to the Pew Research Center, which reported in January that 61 percent of Americans now support legalization compared with 31 percent in 2000.

An overwhelming majority of 78 percent said the state should decide the marijuana legalization issue, while 17 percent said the federal government should.

The poll comes after a group seeking to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes in Michigan — the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol — turned in 360,000 signatures in support of the petition to the Secretary of State’s Office. They are hoping it qualifies for the November ballot.

“Public support has been increasing in Michigan and across the country for more sensible marijuana laws, and I think the public understands that prohibition has been a failure and they want to see smarter approaches to Michigan’s cannabis law,” said Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

“I think a lot of the stigma seems to be going away around it and people admit to having tried it in the past and realizing that it’s really not that big of a deal,” he continued.

While some law enforcement officials have raised concerns with the marijuana proposal, it has not yet faced any significant organized opposition. A group called the Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools had raised $5,000 through Oct. 20, according to state records.

Chris DeWitt, a spokesman for the opposition group, has called the legalization proposal “ill-advised and not in the public interest.”

While the proposal would regulate the legalized commercial marketplace, it would also allow adults to group up to 12 marijuana plants inside their home for personal use without a license.

DeWitt argued the home-grow provision would allow “mass quantities of unregulated, untested, and untaxed marijuana to be grown by anybody anywhere; creating a true black market for illegal drugs.”

Michigan voters legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2008. The state this year is in the process of licensing medical marijuana dispensaries in communities that approve of them.

A 2013 Supreme Court decision ruled that dispensaries are illegal under state law, but a new law is allowing their legalization with certain rules. Many in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Lansing have not been targeted by state police, while regional narcotics teams led by the state agency have cracked down in other areas of Michigan.

According to the poll, a majority of Democrats said they strongly support legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes while 30.5 percent of steadfast Republicans said they strongly support legalization.

The poll comprised 42 percent Democrats, 31 percent Republicans and 24 percent independents, reflecting a higher interest in voting this November by Democrats and independents, Czuba said.