Poll: Two-thirds of Marylanders favor legalization of recreational marijuana

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Although the prospects for major legislation legalizing recreational cannabis in the state of Maryland may be fleeting in the current General Assembly session, support for the idea continues to grow among state voters.

According to a poll released Tuesday morning by Goucher College, fully two-thirds of Maryland adults now favor legalization of recreational marijuana ― including, for the first time, about half of Republicans. That’s the highest percentage of support for legalization since Goucher pollsters started asking the question in October 2013.

“This most recent [legislative] effort comes on the heels of four states voting to legalize recreational cannabis by ballot measure this past November and, most recently, New Jersey and Virginia passing adult-use marijuana legalization laws,” said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College. “We’ve consistently found that a majority of Marylanders support the legalization of recreational cannabis, but this is the first time Republican support has reached 50 percent.”

There is still a wide partisan gap on the question of legalizing marijuana in the state, the poll found:

• Among Democrats, 77% support, while 18% oppose
• Among Republicans, 50% support, while 47% oppose
• Among independents, 60% support and 34% oppose

Two years ago, 57% of residents supported legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, while 37% said they were opposed.

The cannabis question was one of several issues that Goucher pollsters asked Marylanders about in their most recent survey. The poll of 725 adults was taken Feb. 23-28 and had a 3.6-point margin of error.

Sixty-three percent of Maryland adults said the state is headed in the right direction compared to 31% who said it is on the wrong track. Democrats were far more optimistic, with 74% saying the state is headed in the right direction while only 41% of Republicans did. Black poll respondents were more optimistic than white respondents when it came to the state’s direction, with 71% saying the state is headed in the right direction compared with 56% for white respondents.

In the February 2020 Goucher poll, just 49% of those surveyed said the state was heading in the right direction, and in September 2019 the figure was 46%.

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) continues to win plaudits from voters, with 65% of Marylanders saying they approve of the job Hogan is doing, compared to 25% who disapproved, and 9 percent who said they don’t know. This represents a slight drop from his October 2020 approval rating (71%) but remains the envy of almost every politician.

Strikingly, Hogan’s approval rating was slightly higher among Democrats (67%) than it is among Republicans (63%), and it was higher among the poll’s Black respondents (71%) than it was among whites who were polled (61%).

The approval ratings for Hogan roughly align with the way Marylanders view his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic ― part of a series of questions that were released Monday in the first installment of the Goucher poll.

The General Assembly did not fare so well among those Goucher surveyed.

The legislature had an approval rating of 48% from Maryland adults, while 30% said they disapproved of the job Annapolis lawmakers are doing. The approval rating is considerably higher ― 67% ― among Black voters.

President Biden earned strong approval ratings from Marylanders after just over a month in office. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they approved of the job the new president is doing so far, compared to 31% who did not approve. Not surprisingly, 86% of Democrats gave Biden the thumbs-up, while only 17% of Republicans said they approve of Biden’s job performance.

By way of comparison, at a similar point in his presidency, just 29% of Marylanders approved of the job President Trump was doing, according to the Goucher poll.

After months of national controversy over the veracity of the 2020 election results and the functioning of U.S. democracy, many Marylanders expressed skepticism with the state of the American democratic system: just 31% said they were satisfied compared to 64% who said they were unsatisfied. Forty percent of Democrats said they were satisfied and just 16% of Republicans said they were satisfied.

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