Poll: About half of voters favor making marijuana use legal for adults

Proposition 205 would allow Arizonans 21 and older to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana, shown here, and to grow as many as six marijuana plants at home. (Photo by Katie Bieri/Cronkite News)

About 50 percent of Arizona voters favor a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana use for Arizona adults 21 and older, according to an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll of registered voters.

Fifty percent of nearly 800 registered Arizona voters who were polled said they would “likely vote” to approve Proposition 205, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. Nearly 40 percent oppose it and 10 percent were undecided. The poll, released Wednesday, was commissioned by The Arizona Republic, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy and Cronkite News.

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Seth Leibsohn, co-founder of Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, is confident those numbers will “turn upside-down” if voters learn the details of the proposition.

“They’ll turn against it dramatically,” said Leibsohn, who hosts The Seth Leibsohn Show on radio station KKNT. He described the initiative as a “20-page behemoth” that would drastically change landlord, tenant, family, welfare and DUI laws in favor of marijuana users.

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But J.P. Holyoak, of AZ Natural Selections, said Prop 205 is a “fantastic” measure.

“It’s a great improvement over the ridiculous and failed policies of prohibition,” Holyoak said.

He said the poll results confirm the marijuana vote will be a tight race. He wants to convince voters that the current system of criminalizing marijuana use should be replaced “with a reasonable system of adults being able to consume something that’s objectively safer than alcohol.”

The poll also asked voters whether they would likely vote for or against Proposition 206, which would raise the minimum wage from $8.05 per hour to $10 per hour in 2017, then gradually to $12 by 2020. Twice as many respondents support the measure compared to the percentage of those who oppose it, with 61 percent “in favor” and 31 percent “against.” Voters will decide Prop 206 on the November ballot as well.

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Prop 205, the marijuana measure, would allow Arizonans 21 and older to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana, and to grow as many as six marijuana plants at home. It would also establish a 15 percent sales tax on marijuana and impose fines on those who use the drug outside of the legal limits.

Among those polled, registered Democrats tended to support the measure, with nearly 64 percent saying they would likely vote in favor. Nearly 56 percent of registered Republicans who were polled said they would likely vote “no.”

The marijuana measure gained more support from respondents with a college degree than from those reporting some college, high school or less. Respondents between ages 18 and 35 also tended to support the measure more than those 51 and older, with 66 percent and 42.5 percent “in favor”, respectively.

Arizona legalized the sale of medical marijuana to licensed users in 2010. Recreational marijuana use is legal in Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia.

The Morrison Institute contracted with Behavior Research Center to conduct the poll from Aug. 17-31. Using up-to-date voter registration lists, almost 1,700 live land line and cellphone calls were used to obtain an average of 800 valid responses from likely voters per question. The interviews were performed in English or Spanish. The margin of error fluctuates by question between plus or minus 3 to 4 percentage points.

Reporter Veronica Acosta contributed to this story.