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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

With GOP opposition cooling, backing for legalizing pot grows, poll finds

The Goucher College Poll finding growing support for legalizing recreational marijuana in Maryland comes as lawmakers in Annapolis are again taking up the issue. (AP File Photo/Ed Andrieski)

The Goucher College Poll finding growing support for legalizing recreational marijuana in Maryland comes as lawmakers in Annapolis are again taking up the issue. (AP File Photo/Ed Andrieski)

A growing number of Marylanders support the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to a new poll released by Goucher College.

The latest numbers, which feature growing support from Republicans, come as Virginia is on the verge of legalizing recreational marijuana.

“This tracks with the trends we’ve seen nationally,” said Mileah Kromer, a political scientist and Goucher College Poll director, noting that more states, including some Republican states, are legalizing recreational marijuana.

Overall, 67% of those surveyed say they support or strongly support legalization. This is 10 points more than a similar poll taken in September 2019 and 5 points more than the previous high reported in September 2018.

The poll of 725 Marylanders, including 654 registered voters, was conducted Feb. 23-28 and has a margin of error of 3.6%.

Kromer said that while some partisan divisions remain on the issue, 50% of Republicans now support legalization – the first time that has happened since Goucher began asking about the issue in October 2013.

Maryland lawmakers continue to debate the issue of legalization.

A bill introduced this year anticipates $300 million in annual revenue based on a tax that starts at 10% in 2022 and increases to 20% by 2027. Local jurisdictions could tack on another 3% in sales taxes. Revenue generated by the bill would be split, with 27% earmarked for housing assistance, scholarship aid, reentry programs and other community services.

Another 25% would go to the state’s general fund and 20% to historically Black colleges and universities.

Previous versions of the bill earmarked revenues for public education.

The bill also requires expungement of marijuana-related offenses.

A bill legalizing recreational marijuana is awaiting the signature of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

“That creates a real possibility of (Maryland) losing those tax dollars when new sources of revenue would be welcome,” said Kromer.

Not surprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic is top of mind with those polled — 49% said it was the top issue, followed by 15% who said the economy was the most important issue. And while the majority of Democrats, 58%, said the virus was the top issue, Republicans were more divided, with 28% choosing the pandemic and 27% saying the economy was most important.

Nearly two-thirds of voters said the state was on the right track compared to 31% who said it was moving in the wrong direction. Nearly three-quarters of Democrats reported the state was moving in the right direction, while 54% of Republicans said it was on the wrong track.

A majority of Marylanders, 65%, are dissatisfied with the state of democracy nationally. Of those who responded, 59% of Democrats, 80% of Republicans and 61% of independents said they were dissatisfied. Kromer said the Republican disenchantment likely reflects opposition to President Joseph Biden and to the Democratic Party-controlled House and Senate while Democrats and independents are upset in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

That dissatisfaction has largely left Hogan untouched. Sixty-five percent of those polled said they approve of the job being done by the state’s second-term Republican governor. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans and seven in 10 independents approve of Hogan’s performance.

Kromer said Hogan’s numbers “are tied closely to the direction of the state. They always have been.”

The governor is more popular than Biden, according to the poll. Roughly 63% of Marylanders said they approved of the new president’s performance so far. Republicans were not as kind, with more than eight in 10 saying they disapproved of his efforts so far.

The Maryland General Assembly is also enjoying its highest approval numbers since the poll began asking the question in 2017. Overall, 48% of respondents approved of the job the House of Delegates and Senate are doing, a 7-point increase from February 2020.

Black respondents are the most happy with the legislature’s work, as 67% said they approved of the job being done by lawmakers, compared to 40% of whites and 46% of other races.

Kromer said the number “is good for a legislative body” and is likely buoyed by efforts to deal with racial justice issues, including police reform and accountability, as well as to bolster Black ownership of sports gaming licenses and increase funding for historically Black colleges and universities.

“Speaker (Adrienne) Jones’ visible leadership and focusing on an agenda that discusses policing issues in this state, an issue that our previous poll in November found broad support for among African-Americans, and they’ve made it a focal point of their legislative agenda,” said Kromer.


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