The state of New Jersey is almost evenly divided on whether to legalize marijuana for personal use. According to a new Monmouth University poll, 48 percent of adults in the state think marijuana should be legalized for personal use while 47 percent oppose this change.
As with all polling on marijuana legalization there is a big generational divide, which indicates support should grow in New Jersey over the coming years. Legalization has very strong support among adults under the age of 35 but is opposed by a majority of people over 55.
The poll also confirmed that a growing acknowledgement of marijuana’s relative safety is helping to drive support for reform. Overwhelmingly the people of New Jersey see marijuana as clearly less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, two legal and widely used drugs. Alcohol use is viewed as more dangerous than marijuana use by 59 percent of adults in New Jersey. Just 18 percent think marijuana is more dangerous than drinking while 19 percent say they are equal problematic.
Similarly, in a separate question comparing tobacco and cannabis 58 percent picked tobacco as the is more dangerous of the two substance for a person to use. Only 21 percent think marijuana use is more dangerous than cigarettes.
Over the long term it is tough to believe the voters of the state continue to accept the waste of tax payer resources enforcing prohibition of a substance that is seen as relatively benign.
New Jersey doesn’t have a ballot initiative process so legalization will need to be go through the state legislature. Currently, a legalization bill has been offered by state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D), but change is unlikely while Governor Chris Christie (R) is still in office.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
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