New Jerseyans are 'fully on board' with legal weed in new poll. Do you agree?

Payton Guion | NJ Advance Media

While politicians in Trenton continue delaying legalization to legalize marijuana in the state, the people of New Jersey have again said they strongly support legal weed and appear to be coalescing around other areas of marijuana reform.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Tuesday shows that not only do New Jerseyans want legal weed, they also think low-level marijuana convictions should be cleared and that legalization would be good for the economy.

“As marijuana legalization approaches reality in the state, New Jerseyans are fully on board,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers. “Support has built up slowly in the past five decades, with this being the first time a majority has ever sided with legalization.

"New Jerseyans are now almost three times as likely to support it as they were in 1971," Koning said.

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What's the overall support?

When asked about the legalization of possession and personal use of marijuana, 58 percent of New Jersey residents said they support it, while only 37 percent say they oppose the plan.

These results closely align with a Monmouth University poll from earlier this year that found 60 percent of New Jersey residents support legalization. Both the Rutgers and Monmouth poll showed an increase from a Stockton University poll from April that found only 49 percent of residents supported legalization.

Clearing criminal records

The Rutgers poll went further in measuring the public opinion on marijuana than previous surveys, asking about other planks in the legalization platform, including expungements.

Gov. Phil Murphy has said that clearing low-level marijuana convictions from people's criminal records is a crucial step in marijuana reform, if New Jersey were to pass legalization. The poll shows that New Jersey residents overwhelmingly agree.

Some 79 percent believe individuals penalized for possessing a small amount of marijuana should be allowed to clear their records, should weed become legal.

Past marijuana use

While this result may fall victim to self-reporting bias, around 50 percent of respondents said they had used marijuana in the past. This lines up with the rest of the country, as a 2017 poll found that 52 percent of Americans admitted to trying marijuana.

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Future marijuana use

Should legal weed come to the Garden State, about a quarter of people said they would try marijuana.

Selling in your backyard?

While the legalization debate has continued in Trenton, dozens of towns have taken the preemptive step of banning marijuana businesses from their borders, should legal weed come to New Jersey. Only a handful of towns have said they want pot shops.

But the Rutgers poll shows that New Jerseyans may be more receptive to having marijuana businesses in their towns than previously thought. Some 64 percent said "they would not be bothered if a store selling marijuana opened in their town."

These numbers are up from a Quinnipiac poll in August that found just 50 percent of New Jersey residents were OK with a pot shop in their town.

Marijuana or alcohol?

A common talking point in support of legalization for some marijuana advocates is that weed is safer than alcohol.

It appears that New Jerseyans agree. Nearly 50 percent of people said they think marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, while just 12 percent said they believe it to be more harmful.

"These polls show that attitudes towards legalizing cannabis, a healthier alternative to alcohol and many prescription drugs, is what New Jerseyans want to see,” said Scott Rudder, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.

Economic boost

Some estimates have found that if New Jersey legalized marijuana it could generate more than $1 billion in weed revenue annually, leading to a couple hundred million dollars in taxes, depending on the rate.

Colorado, which has a smaller population than New Jersey, recently reported that it had passed $1 billion in marijuana sales in the first eight months of 2018.

The Rutgers poll found that 64 percent of residents think legalization would be a boon to New Jersey's economy.

Home-grow

If marijuana is legalized, should people in New Jersey be allowed to grow at home? For many pro-marijuana activists, the answer is a hard yes. Lawmakers have looked at it differently and home-grow hasn't been seriously discussed in Trenton this year.

But it appears that residents side more with the activists than the lawmakers, with 60 percent of people saying that there should be home-grow, compared with 33 percent who don't think it should be allowed.

Methodology

Rutgers researchers conducted a statewide poll of 1,006 adults contacted by live callers on landlines and cell phones from Oct. 12 through Oct. 19. The sample has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Article by NJ.com

Victor Madril