An overwhelming majority of New Mexico voters—75 percent—support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll released on Friday.
“In this day and age, getting 75-percent of people to agree on the day of the week is hard if we make it political,” said Pat Davis, an Albuquerque City Councilor who serves as chairman of the Governor’s Legalization Working Group, which commissioned the new survey. “For this many New Mexicans to say it’s time to do this is remarkable.”
“Support for legalization is stronger in New Mexico than any state polled this year.”
The polling found 73 percent support for legalization before voters were given any information about the topic at the start of the survey. But after they were read messaging arguments about the policy change, support ticked up to 75 percent.
The poll, which surveyed 1,055 likely 2020 New Mexico voters between November 26 and December 2, revealed some interesting facts about marijuana politics in the state:
- Support varies by partisan affiliation: Close to all Democrats—90 percent—support legalization. Independents aren’t far behind, with 81 percent support. Nearly half of Republicans—49 percent—are on board.
- Different arguments persuade legalization supporters and opponents: Pro-legalization voters are best persuaded by arguments that legal marijuana will create jobs and fund important services through taxes. Meanwhile, anti-legalization voters are best persuaded by arguments that cannabis has medical uses.
- Supporters and opponents want to spend tax money differently: Pro-legalization voters want cannabis tax revenue to go towards public education and mental health services. Anti-legalization voters also prefer funding mental health, but additionally want some to go to law enforcement.
- The messenger makes the message: Legalization supporters are more likely to be persuaded by doctors and medical patients. But opponents are more likely to be persuaded by law enforcement and religious leaders.
- Cannabis jobs are tempting: Almost half of voters know someone who wants to work in the legal cannabis industry. That interest increases for younger people—70 percent of voters under 35 want a cannabis job or know someone who does.
The polling, conducted by Change Research, was commissioned by the cannabis legalization working group assembled earlier this year by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), who campaigned on her support for ending prohibition in 2018.
After holding public hearings throughout the summer and fall, the working group released a series of recommendations for how New Mexico should legalize marijuana. They include provisions for automatic expungement of cannabis convictions, tax exemptions for medical patients and social equity in business licensing.
New Mexico lawmakers will begin a short, thirty-day legislative session next month, and Grisham has called on the House and Senate to consider cannabis legalization. If the effort succeeds, New Mexico will be the 12th U.S. state to end marijuana prohibition.
Interestingly, though 73 percent of survey respondents supported allowing marijuana sales in their own cities or towns, only 39 percent claimed they would be “very or somewhat likely” to purchase it themselves.
“This is not a stoner-led movement,” said Davis, the working group chair. “This is real people who see an opportunity that we’re not taking advantage of.”
More surprising, a majority of voters—56 percent—do not want cities to be able to entirely opt out of selling cannabis. Even 12 percent of legalization opponents support this position, though 30 percent of supporters feel cities should be able to opt out of sales.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved a marijuana legalization bill. But even with Grisham’s support, the legislation failed to receive a vote on the Senate floor after advancing at the committee level. Lawmakers were divided over last-minute changes added by Republican lawmakers that would have created a restricted system of state-run retail stores, among other provisions. The working group recommended that sales should be conducted by private, state-licensed retails outlets instead.
Although full legalization fell short in 2019, Grisham did sign into law a narrower marijuana decriminalization bill in April.
Grisham acknowledged that even with such strong popular support, getting marijuana legalization done in January will not be easy. “I think cannabis is going to be really hard—it should be,” she told The Albuquerque Journal. “That is not something to run into without being really clear… If I have it on the call, I’m serious about getting it passed.”
Read the full results of the New Mexico marijuana legalization poll below:
Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.