Washington voters appear split on the prospect of marijuana legalization as the issue heads to the state Legislature next week.
A new Elway Research poll released Wednesday shows the softest support yet for Initiative 502, which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales, with 48 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. The margin of error is 5 percentage points.
Other polls, both statewide and nationwide, have shown rising enthusiasm for legalization. A KING-TV/Survey USA poll in November, asking about specific provisions in I-502, found 57 percent approval and strong support among baby boomers.
The recent Elway poll, asking more general questions about legalization, found the strongest support among younger and more educated voters. But pollster Stuart Elway said he found support had weakened since his poll in July, when 54 percent endorsed legalization.
“If you’re a supporter, it’s going the wrong way,” he said.
The I-502 campaign, called New Approach Washington, turned in more than 341,000 signatures last month — far more than the number of valid signatures required to send the initiative to the Legislature in January. If lawmakers balk, the initiative would head to the November general-election ballot, giving Washington voters their first chance to vote on legalization.
The initiative would raise an estimated $215 million from heavily taxed and regulated sales at privately owned, state-licensed marijuana stores. The state Liquor Control Board would gain authority to license grow farms and cannabis food processors.
Legalization is also likely to be on the 2012 presidential ballot in Colorado, and campaigns are under way in California, Oregon, Missouri and other states.
Alison Holcomb, campaign director for New Approach, noted the Elway poll question was broadly worded, without mentioning provisions in I-502 that are popular with voters — including restricting sales to people at least 21 years old and earmarking marijuana-tax revenue for health and drug-abuse-prevention programs.
“Our research over the years has shown us that voters really care about what the details are,” she said.
– Article from The Seattle Times.