Poll: 53 Percent of Arizonans Back Legalizing Marijuana

A new Rocky Mountain Poll finds that 53 percent of Arizonans back legalizing marijuana for adults, with only 39 percent opposed to the idea.

The poll also shows that 83 percent of Arizonans now support the type of university research on the potential medicinal effects of marijuana advocated by Dr. Sue Sisley, the former University of Arizona researcher who was fired after pressure from a state lawmaker.

At least one ballot initiative that would give adults 21 and older the freedom to possess and grow marijuana for their personal use is expected to be put before voters in November of 2016.

The Marijuana Policy Project, which ran the successful 2010 campaign legalizing medical marijuana in Arizona, was the first to file paperwork with the state for an initiative. The group is collaborating with a cabal of dispensary owners — following an earlier spat, that is — and various cannabis advocates in the "Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol."

Last month, cannabis activist Jason Medar and the Campaign to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana filed paperwork for their own ballot proposition.

Each group needs to collect about 150,000 signatures, and it's possible the existence of two initiatives could derail chances of either being successful. However, it's still unclear whether Medar, whose proposed law eliminates felony charges for anything up to eight ounces in addition to legalizing smaller amounts, can muster the money and volunteers for a statewide signature drive.

The better-organized Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol claims that it has collected more than 15,000 signatures in the past three weeks, according to a news release about today's new poll.

"The poll reflects what we’re finding out on the street while collecting signatures," writes J.P. Holyoak, chairman of the campaign and principal of one of the Valley's nonprofit medical-marijuana dispensaries. "We’re finding that most voters agree it’s time for a more sensible marijuana policy in Arizona. Even those folks who are still on the fence seem to agree that our current prohibition laws aren’t working."

The Behavior Research Center's Rocky Mountain Poll results are available online.

The survey was conducted on both land- and cell-lines, was "based on 701 interviews with adult heads of household statewide including 457 registered voters," and was conducted between April 29 and May 10.

Another interesting part of this poll is where  support is not coming from.

Two signs point to challenges to Arizona legalization at the ballot box: Republican voters oppose it 61-33, and support runs essentially 50-50 among people 55 and older. You may have heard that older Republicans in this state have a hobby called voting.

The constant in-fighting of marijuana activists and business interests won't help the odds, either.

Fortunately for them, organized opposition to the proposals has so far been weak, resorting to the questionable use of RICO money and other public funding to get its Reefer Madness-style point across.

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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