Iowa voters overwhelmingly support medical marijuana but are not yet ready for recreational

Support for medical marijuana is overwhelming everywhere in the country, even in Iowa. An incredible 81 percent of Iowa voters think it should be legal to use marijuana for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Just 17 percent of voters in the state oppose medical cannabis.

Support is very strong in every subgroup. Even a super majority of Republicans and senior citizens want medical marijuana to be legal. It is remarkable how much support the idea has in Iowa, but it is still not legal under state or federal laws. There is probably no single issue with a greater disconnect between public opinion and politicians’ actions.

On the issue of recreational marijuana, though, Iowa remains more conservative. Only 41 percent of voters think marijuana should be legalized for personal use while 55 percent believe it should remain prohibited. That should steadily change in the future because marijuana legalization is supported by 62 percent of voters under 30, but strong opposition from older voters keeps its overall numbers down.

Probably a big reason that Iowans remain more opposed to marijuana legalization than other parts of the country is their relative lack of direct experience with it. Only about a third of voters in Iowa say they have ever personally tried marijuana. By comparison 44 percent of voters in Ohio and 51 percent in Colorado say they have used marijuana at least once. In general people who have tried marijuana are more likely to support its legalization.

Theoretically, the growth of pot tourism in Colorado could even play a modest role in helping to spread support for legalization by giving some adults from across the country an easy and legal way to try it for the first time.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy