3 in 4 Maryland voters support marijuana legalization, poll says

The November general election is just over a month away, and Maryland voters will weigh in on a variety of ballot measures — including marijuana legalization.

A new poll conducted by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland suggests the majority of registered Maryland voters support the legalization of marijuana.

Nearly 3 in 4 of those surveyed, 73%, indicated their support for the measure to legalize “the use of cannabis” by July 2023 for residents aged 21 or older.

Data from the poll, which surveyed 810 registered voters by phone between Sept. 22 and Sept. 27, showed that support for the measure is as diverse as it is widespread. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus four points.

“Across almost every category that we usually look at — party, ideology, age, sex, education level, race, ethnicity — there are pretty sizable majorities of people who support legalizing marijuana in the state of Maryland,” said Michael Hanmer, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement.

While a majority of voters are in favor of legalization, certain groups expressed a higher degree of support than others.

Results showed that while a majority of Republicans support the measure, they are less supportive overall than Democrats. Slightly more than half, 53%, of registered Republicans said they support the measure compared to 78% of registered Democrats.

Older adults also expressed less overall support for legalization than their younger counterparts, though a majority was still in favor. Of those aged 65 and older, 52% indicated their support in the poll, compared to 87% of those aged 18 to 39 and 72% of those aged 40 to 64.

While it’s not certain the measure will pass, Hanmer said “with that level of support, even if it goes down somewhat, it’s likely based on what we’re seeing in these results.”

It’ll appear as Question 4 on November’s ballot. If approved, Maryland would become the 20th U.S. state to legalize adult recreational use of the drug. Residents of neighboring D.C. voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2014; Virginia did so last year.

Maryland already has a legal medicinal marijuana program, in step with 36 other states and the District. Hanmer said Maryland’s current stance on marijuana, among other factors, could explain the overwhelming support for enabling recreational use.

“People are getting more comfortable with it,” he said. “We’ve had the experience of seeing it implemented in a number of other places. And I think people have learned from that experience. We haven’t seen, to the best of my knowledge, a lot of the potentially negative outcomes that people might have been concerned about in these places that it’s largely worked pretty well.”

Hanmer added: “I think that helped get people to gain a better understanding of the pros and the cons, and to certainly look at the pros differently than they might have otherwise — something different from a purely recreational issue, for example.”

Surveys have consistently shown that most Marylanders favor legalizing the drug, but the most recent poll suggests broader support than in prior surveys.

Polls from February and October 2021 estimated statewide support for legalization to be around two-thirds of registered voters.

Lauren Hamilton

Lauren Hamilton is an Associate Producer at WTOP and a graduate of the University of Maryland. She enjoys covering the intersection of arts, culture and social justice in local communities. She began as an intern with WTOP in the summer of 2021.

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