As the General Assembly considers a bill to legalize recreational marijuana use, a new poll shows two-thirds of Marylanders support the legislation — including about half of Republicans.
For the first time since the Goucher Poll began tracking attitudes on this topic in 2013, Republican support in the state totals 50%, according to Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College in Baltimore. She said the high GOP approval number echoes a national trend as younger party members have more flexible views of cannabis use.
“This has been a long time coming for Republicans,” she said. “By and large, millennials and Gen-Zers, those Republicans, are supportive of legalization. So, as these individuals start to age up into the voting bloc, the adult population, you’re going to see those attitudes start to shift.”
However, 47% of Republicans polled said they’re against legalization, compared with only 18% of Democrats. Two years ago, 57% of all Marylanders were in favor of legalizing marijuana, so the latest poll shows a 10-percentage-point increase. House Bill 32 is still in committee in the House.
Kromer said she thinks the rise in approval is because, as more states legalize recreational cannabis use, Maryland residents see that it could benefit their own economy. Neighboring Virginia just passed a legalization bill and is building a marijuana economy, which Kromer said could draw tax dollars away from Maryland.
“You’re going to see more and more states legalize it for recreational use,” she said. “Particularly now, with the budgetary crunches associated with COVID-19, it becomes a way to generate revenue, and that appeals to a lot of voters who maybe were not inclined to support it to begin with.”
Kromer added that legalizing marijuana coincides in Maryland with a push for social-justice legislation.
“Black Marylanders and other people of color in the state are disproportionately affected by marijuana laws,” she said, “and so as the General Assembly has pushed forward with some criminal-justice reform, this is also part of that larger conversation.”
The Goucher poll also found that 48% of Marylanders approve of the job the General Assembly is doing, including 67% of Black residents. Kromer attributed this to House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, pushing forward bills that address policing and racial-equity issues.