Pot Poll: Support for Larger Grow Facilities and Residency Requirement for Pot-Shop Owners

Most Arizona residents prefer larger cultivation facilities for medical pot and residency requirements for dispensary owners, says a poll commissioned by the folks who brought you Prop 203.

Joe Yuhas of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association spoke of the poll results today at the medical marijuana rules hearing in Tempe, and gave us a handout afterward. Yuhas is a partner of the Riester PR firm, and he and Andrew Myers have been the most visible supporters of the state's new medical marijuana law.

The Behavior Research poll has a few flaws, but it's worth mentioning:

Seven hundred residents across Arizona were interviewed between January 22 and 27, according to Yuhas' handout.

The state Department of Health Services released its revised rules for the medical marijuana system a few days after that, so that's the poll's first problem.

Although 71 percent of respondents said they either favor or strongly favor a two-year residency requirement for dispensary owners, while just 20 percent opposed or strongly opposed. (Nine percent were undecided.)

The second draft of rules calls for a three-year residency requirement for the pot-shop owners, something the poll doesn't address. But it's safe to assume that most still favor a two- or three-year requirement, even if some would rather keep it to two years.

The second of three poll questions in Yuhas' handout asks whether people prefer that dispensaries grow 70 percent of their own pot, "or do you favor fewer facilities which would make them easier to regulate?"

We're not crazy about poll questions with such wording. In this case, the poll wants respondents to assume the part about being easier to regulate is true. It's not, because each dispensary could buy bulk marijuana from the warehouse-sized grow rooms and still grow some marijuana in-house.

Also, the state dropped the 70-percent rule in its second draft. It's moot point now, but 20 percent of Arizonans went for the 70-percent idea, while 56 percent said they "prefer fewer but larger grow facilities." (Fifteen percent said "neither" while 9 percent were unsure.)

The poll also asked people what they thought of the state's attempt at defining a doctor-patient relationship. The first draft of rules contained a strict definition, which would have made it tougher for Arizonans to qualify as card-carrying medical marijuana patients. DHS loosened up in the second draft of rules, suggesting that pot-recommending doctors be required to conduct a physical exam and review the medical records of patients.

The poll commissioned by Yuhas and Myers put the question this way:

In general, do you favor different and more restrictive requirements in regards to medical marijuana or do you favor rules that are consistent with those currently governing doctor, patient and prescription drugs?

Fifty-three percent of Arizonans said they prefer less restrictive requirements. Yet again, we have a concern about the poll wording.

The proposed rules governing medical marijuana are different than those governing prescription drugs -- in some ways more restrictive but in other ways, less so. For instance, once a patient qualifies to buy marijuana, he or she can buy up to two-and-a-half ounces every two weeks for a whole year, at which point the card can be renewed. That's quite different than filling a prescription for Vicodin. Poll respondents who aren't as knowledgeable about the law might not have made that distinction.

Perhaps the most telling number of the whole poll was that 39 percent answered that they wanted to see "more restrictive requirements." These are the hardcore folks (mostly Republican and Independent) who'll be watching Arizona's program closely for any sign of monkey business -- and who might even want the program repealed.

We asked Yuhas if he had pollsters ask people whether they'd vote for Prop 203 again. He smiled and said they did.

"Fifty-one percent said they would," he said. "That's how we knew the poll was accurate."

The Prop barely clinched a victory with slightly more than 50 percent of voter approval.

In a few months, when the state is brimming with marijuana, it'll be time to do another poll.

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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