Marijuana Polls Show Strong Support for MMJ, Cannabis Legalization in Several States

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A flurry of marijuana surveys released over the past two weeks shows growing support for MMJ and cannabis legalization in general across the country, further fueling the industry’s recent momentum.

Here’s a sampling of the studies and how they fit into the bigger picture for each state:

Hawaii – A poll conducted by QMark Research for the Drug Policy Action Group found that 78% of registered voters support the creation of a “tightly regulated dispensary system” to distribute medical marijuana in the state. Patients with certain medical conditions can currently grow and use marijuana in Hawaii, but the state’s law does not allow dispensaries. The survey also found that 57% of respondents favor legalizing, regulating and taxing the sale and use of marijuana by adults vs. about 40% that oppose the idea.

What it means: Hawaii is one of several states that could consider  a marijuana legalization proposal in 2013, and this poll will most certainly embolden supporters. It also could convince lawmakers to consider legislation allowing dispensaries in Hawaii.

New Hampshire – Nearly 70% of voters in New Hampshire favor the legalization of medical marijuana vs. 26% that oppose it, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Marijuana Policy Project. What’s more, 53% said they would support a law to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adult use.

What it means: Expect New Hampshire to join the list of medical cannabis states this year. Residents are clearly as ready for medical marijuana as they’ll ever be, and that will be hard for the state to ignore. Lawmakers in the House and Senate have passed MMJ bills twice in 2009 and 2012, but the governor at the time vetoed them both. Now, however, the state has a new MMJ-friendly governor. New Hampshire will also consider marijuana legalization this year, though that’s a bigger stretch than a medical cannabis law.

Arizona – Despite numerous challenges to the state’s MMJ program and a bid to repeal the 2010 voter-approved law, 59% of respondents to a recent poll said they support the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The survey – conducted by Public Policy Polling for the National Cannabis Industry Association – found that just 37% oppose the law. There’s also sizable support for general marijuana legalization: 53% support it vs. 44% who oppose it.

What it means: This could put a serious dent in efforts to put the state’s medical marijuana law back on the ballot next year for another vote. It appears that the law has relatively strong support, and lawmakers might not be up for yet another fight against MMJ that could end in failure. But don’t expect the state to go one further and legalize marijuana for recreation use: Although the majority of voters seem to support such a proposal, in reality it’s a long way off.

North Carolina & West Virginia: A PPP survey found that 58% of voters in North Carolina support medical marijuana compared to 33% who oppose it. The rest – 9% – said they are not quite sure how they feel about MMJ legalization. A similar poll conducted by PPP in West Virginia found that 53% of voters in that state support medical marijuana legalization vs. 40% who oppose and 6% who are not sure.

What it means: These polls signify that MMJ is finally making gains in the South – the last region of the country to hold out against medical cannabis. Lawmakers in West Virginia and several other states will likely have a chance this year to seriously weigh medical marijuana legislation. Polls like these could help the cause, but MMJ still faces an uphill challenge in the South.

These polls are certainly good new for the cannabis industry as a whole. But one word of caution: The surveys were commissioned by pro-marijuana groups. Polls spearheaded by organizations opposed to cannabis might paint a slightly different picture.