A majority of registered voters in Texas are in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis, according to the results of a statewide poll released this week. The Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler Poll found that 55% of Texans said that they either support or strongly support legalizing adult-use cannabis. The percentage of voters who favor the legalization of medical marijuana was even stronger, with 72% saying that they support or strongly support the legalization of cannabis for medicinal use.
Overall, 34% of the poll’s respondents said they strongly support legalizing marijuana for adult use, while 21% said they support the move. Just over a third were against legalizing recreational weed, with 14% saying they are opposed and 21% reporting they are strongly opposed, while 9% said they neither support nor oppose legalization.
Support for legalizing adult-use cannabis varied by political affiliation. Among Democrats, 38% said they strongly support legalizing marijuana and 27% said they support the policy change. Independent voters’ support for recreational cannabis was also strong, with 42% saying they strongly support legalization and 21% saying they support it. Support for legalizing recreational pot was weakest among Republicans, with 26% and 17% saying they strongly support or support legalization, respectively.
Laurie Richardson, a Democrat in Frisco, Texas who responded to the poll, said that she has never smoked cannabis. But she added that she knows cannabis has medical benefits, and when it comes to personal use, “prohibition doesn’t work.”
“We tried to prohibit alcohol, and then you have all these people trying to create their own alcohol and people getting alcohol poisoning — I feel the same way with marijuana,” Richardson said. “I just don’t think you’re gonna be able to stop people from accessing it if they want it. I think it needs to be treated almost like alcohol.”
Nearly half of Republicans surveyed in the poll said they oppose adult-use cannabis legalization. While 16% said they were opposed, 32% said they were strongly opposed.
“If they legalized it, you’re gonna have a dispensary pop up on every corner in our town, and that’s not really something that I look forward to seeing every day,” said Tyler, Texas resident Edwin Kirby, a Republican and one of the poll’s respondents. “With the drug problems we have now with young kids, that’s just gonna add fuel to the fire.”
Legalizing recreational cannabis is even less popular with Republican leaders in Texas. While Governor Greg Abbot has said he is in favor of reducing charges for pot possession to a misdemeanor instead of a felony, he is opposed to broader cannabis policy reforms. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been an active prohibitionist by blocking cannabis reform legislation from being discussed in the Texas Senate. And at the Texas GOP convention in June, Republicans approved a party platform that opposes the legalization of recreational pot.
Support for legalizing medical marijuana was even stronger among Texas voters. State lawmakers passed strictly limited legislation to allow for the medicinal use of cannabis oil with less than 0.5% THC for the treatment of epilepsy in 2015, and some reforms have been made to broaden the program since. Earlier this year, the legislature approved an expansion to include patients with cancer and PTSD, but the medical cannabis program in Texas remains one of the nation’s strictest.
Overall, the poll found that 72% of respondents are in favor of legalizing cannabis for medicinal use, including 44% who said they strongly support the move and 28% who said they support it. Among Democrats, three-quarters are in favor of legalizing medical cannabis, with 49% saying they strongly support legalization and 26% saying they support it. Support was stronger among independents, with 51% saying they strongly support medicinal legalization and 26% saying they support the change. Two-thirds of Republicans favor legalizing medical pot, with 35% saying they strongly support the move and 32% saying they support it.
“I’ve got a son that was in the Marine Corps, and he uses it for medicinal purposes,” said Paula Miller, a Republican in Diboll, Texas who responded to the poll. “If anything, they need to make alcohol illegal,” she added after noting that a family member died in a traffic collision caused by a drunk driver.
The new poll, which was released on Monday, showed a dip in support for weed legalization compared to earlier this year. The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler Poll released in May showed that 83% supported legalizing medical marijuana and 60% supported legalizing cannabis for use by adults.
The new Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler Poll was conducted from August 1 through August 7, interviewing a representative sample of 1,358 registered voters via telephone on a variety of subjects of interest to Texans. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
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