Two Out of Three New Yorkers Support Legalizing Marijuana

New York Cannabis Now

Favorable public support polls are often a major step towards precipitating a victory for legal cannabis.


In new poll announced Monday, nearly two out of three New Yorkers surveyed said they support the legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use in their state — especially when it comes to paying the bills!

The poll, conducted by Emerson College and commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation and the Drug Policy Alliance, was conducted from Nov. 16-18 and surveyed 600 registered voters from around the state. The results showed that 62 percent of New York voters support making marijuana use legal for adults 21 and older, with only 28 percent opposed.

The survey found that voters are far more supportive of legalizing and taxing marijuana compared to other options presented as solutions for closing the state’s budget deficit. In October, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reminded everyone just how deep in the hole they were, telling supporters, “We need $4 billion just to get to zero. And that’s without a penny more being spent.” On top of that, the state could be facing federal cuts to their budget, as the upcoming fiscal year’s budget continues to be debated in Washington. For example, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have a devastating impact on New York’s health care system and could see the state’s net losses reach up to $19 billion, which Cuomo said would be unmanageable.

But fear not, broke Big Apple! The poll found 60 percent of respondents supported legalizing and taxing marijuana to help address New York’s financial problems, with 28 percent not supporting the idea. The poll also offered some other options to solve the fiscal crisis — including increasing sales or income taxes, increasing tolls, or cutting public education or other services — but between only 15 percent and 27 percent of voters supported those options.

“The strong support for legal marijuana use challenges New York elected officials who continue to support ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana laws,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance in a statement on the poll’s findings. Frederique also called the poll a signal that New Yorkers favor using revenue from a legal marijuana market to address our budget deficit and lawmakers would be wise to heed their opinion.

“How New York decides to reform marijuana laws provides an opportunity to repair the significant harms prohibition causes in vulnerable communities across the state by centering racial and economic justice,” said Frederique.

NYC-based Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell told Cannabis Now that the poll should definitely help the push in the state capital.

“This should make a lot more lawmakers look more seriously at supporting legalization bills in Albany, especially in light of the budget situation,” Angell said.

And as for those lawmakers on either side of the aisle in Albany, they’ll have plenty to take away from this. Most New Yorkers on either side of the aisle would likely support a legalization effort with 63 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans who were polled in favor. However, those Independents who didn’t identify with either party had the most support for legal cannabis by far: 71 percent!

The results also showed the age-old generation gap battle in pot policy reform is still going strong in New York. The only group that didn’t support legalization were people over the age of 75, with more than half coming out against the idea and only 37 percent supporting. But those 55 to 74-year-olds are a bit more hip, with 56 percent supporting legalization. From there, the support jumps up 9 percent for every twenty years younger the respondent gets, with 18-34 seeing nearly three-quarters of respondents in support.

Also according to the data, there was no significant difference in support or opposition based on gender identity or ethnicity.

“This should be a wake-up call to lawmakers: New Yorkers want their state to take a sensible, humane approach to marijuana policy,” said Landon Dais, political director of MPP of New York.

Dais called on New York to stop wasting resources punishing otherwise law-abiding residents for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. “It’s time to take marijuana off of the criminal market, so we can create good jobs, build the economy, and fund essential services,” he said.

These kind of polls are the first steps in proving more valid steps are worth taking to both lawmakers and big donors who might want to support state-specific campaigns. Most importantly this kind of numbers serve as a mandate from everyone who hasn’t had an AARP card for 20 years that they don’t want cannabis to be a crime.

TELL US, do you think New York should legalize marijuana?

Jimi Devine has been involved in cannabis reform since 2005 and has worked in the Berkeley cannabis industry since 2009 when he moved to California from Lynn, Massachusetts. Currently serving as Staff Writer here at Cannabis Now, you can also find his writings on cannabis products and policy in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, The Hill, The Chronicle of High Education, GreenState.com, Marijuana.com, 7x7 Magazine, and in Ed Rosenthal's most recent book This Bud's for You. Jimi has a BA in Journalism and Media Studies from Franklin Pierce University.

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