Arizona Voters About 50-50 on Marijuana Legalization

Arizona voters are split nearly 50-50 on adult-use marijuana legalization, according to a new poll showing the need for supporters to work together if they want to end pot prohibition next year.

Overall, 49 percent of voters support and 51 percent oppose the idea of "recreational" marijuana legalization, says the poll released on Tuesday by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism

Not surprisingly, the poll showed that Democrats, independents and people under 55 favor cannabis legalization far more than Republicans and senior citizens.

Morrison queried 904 random voters from October 7-15 on the marijuana question. The margin of error is 3 percent, which means theoretically it could go either way. But David Daugherty, associate director at the institute, says the results don't bode well for legalization because only 29 percent of Republicans said they favor the measure.

"It is important to note," he said, "Republicans and older adults vote in larger numbers than either Democrats or young adults, which would, at least at this point in time point toward likely defeat of the legalization of recreational marijuana.”

Every vote counted for the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, which passed by a mere 4,340 votes out of about 1.7 million ballots cast. The stakes are even higher this time, with the possibility of a Colorado-style law that creates business opportunities and promises tens of millions annually in tax revenue for the state school system — all for legalizing something that more than 500,000 Arizonans already use illegally.

Yet cannabis activists have been clashing over their differing ideas for the future of legalization, and their battle could pull away crucial votes.   

The initiative with the best chance of appearing before voters next November is the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project.

An opposing group, Arizonans for Mindful Regulation, has been collecting signatures for a more liberal measure. Its leader, Jason Medar, vows to try to kill the MPP proposal if the AZFMR bill doesn't make it onto the 2016 ballot.

Also on Tuesday, the institute released results of polls it has taken from May to July on a wide range of issues, including climate change, gay marriage, and guns. Some of the results skewed slightly more liberal than many would expect, given Arizona's reputation as a conservative hot zone:

* Seventy-four percent of all voters and 60 percent of Republicans said they support the right for a woman to obtain an abortion; 99 percent of liberal independents said "yes" to that question, but only 82 percent of Democrats.

* Sixty-nine percent of all voters support gay marriage.

* Sixty percent of all voters believe climate change is manmade.

On the other hand, this is Arizona:

* Only 42 percent of all voters believe gun laws should be more restrictive.

* Only 29 percent of all voters want to eliminate the death penalty.

Read the whole poll here.
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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern