Marijuana legalization has substantial support from young voters

A plurality of voters in Rhode Island support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll from the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University. The survey found that 47.6 percent of voters support legalizing marijuana for personal use while only 39.3 percent oppose legalization. The rest are unsure, undecided, or didn’t answer.

Marijuana legalization has substantial support from young voters while most of the opposition comes from senior citizens. Legalization actually has majority support among all age groups under the age of 60 but only 40.9 percent of voters over that age back legalization. Given the generational divide support is almost guaranteed to grow in the coming years.

The wording of the question used might be underestimating how much support there is in Rhode Island for a new legalization law. The poll read, “Overall, do you support or oppose legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” The question didn’t mention regulation, taxation or age limits which are likely to be part of any legalization proposal in the state legislature.

The lack of the elements people care about in a question can make a noticeable difference. For example, a New Hampshire poll last year asked people if they support marijuana legalization in general then in a separate question asked if they would support a specific bill that included regulation and taxation. Support for legalization increased nine points when the details of the bill were described.

Early this year the Marijuana Policy Project released their own poll of Rhode Island using a question that mentioned age limits and regulation. They found 53 percent support for legalization and only 41 percent opposed.

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

Photo by Sean_Marshal under creative commons license