As we wrote last month, polls in Arizona have been mixed when it comes to determining just how many people want to legalize pot and how many want to keep it criminalized. But the latest poll indicates a small majority support legalization, a possible indication that we could be among the states changing marijuana laws in upcoming years, if not sooner.
According to the Arizona Capitol Times, the poll came from the Behavior Research Center and found 51% of those responding said the sale of marijuana should be legal. Only 41% were opposed. Though the majority is small, it is very encouraging, and part of a steady trend.
“It reflects a growing trend across the country,” said Earl de Barge of the Center. Half of Americans have smoked it at some point.”
This prevalence could be part of the reason about half of Americans want it legalized. Across the country, attitudes towards marijuana are changing and laws criminalizing it are being weakened and challenged.
The most support for legalization came from adults under the age of 35, where 61% were in favor. Among those ages 35 to 54, 54% still approved of legalization. The scale didn’t tip to opposition until the respondents were ages 55 and over, where 52% opposed legalization.
Still, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery points out the findings are misleading. When you consider the margin of error (4.7 percentage points), the poll doesn’t necessarily mean good news for legalization advocates.
“With all the smoke and mirrors employed by the pro-legalization industry, the failure to muster a majority that exceeds the 4.7 percent margin of error in the poll is evidence that you can’t fool all the people all the time,” said Montgomery in an email. “As Arizonans are able to see the growing problems in Colorado and Washington, the percentage of those in favor of legalizing marijuana is more likely to decline rather than grow.”
Dennis Bohlke of Safer Arizona says the poll should instill confidence in marijuana advocates. In other words, it could provide some needed momentum. And Safer Arizona is working to collect 300,000 signatures by July 3rd to get marijuana legalization on the ballot this year.
Meanwhile, changes to existing medical marijuana laws could also be on the horizon. State health officials are proposing changes that would allow permit holders to grow their own medicine. Currently, you have to live outside of a straight line 25-mile radius of any dispensaries before growing is allowed.
The bottom-line is that marijuana laws here are ripe for reform. Public opinion is clearly way ahead of the criminal statutes. But while marijuana remains illegal law enforcement will not think twice about arresting people accused of violating the existing laws.