New Jersey voters support a marijuana legalization referendum that’s on their ballots by a nearly three-to-one margin, according to a new poll released on Friday.
The Stockton University Polling Institute survey found that when likely voters were asked whether they “support or oppose a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana in New Jersey,” 66 percent were in favor, compared to 23 percent in opposition.
A separate poll released last week found that voters back the Garden State marijuana referendum by a similar margin of 61 percent to 29 percent. Another survey last month showed 65 percent of voters in support of the cannabis ballot question.
In a press release, the pollsters from Stockton emphasized that “margins in actual election results for ballot questions are typically less than found in the polls” and that “the reason may be that the number of voters who actually cast votes at the end of the ballot, where public questions are placed, are generally fewer than at the top of the ballot.”
That could be a concern for cannabis legalization advocates since the New Jersey referendum is on the back of the ballot, where some voters may not see it. In light of that, activists have made a concerted effort to get voters to “turn the page” to make sure they weigh in on the marijuana question.
The university didn’t publish demographic breakdowns from the poll in its release but did share them at Marijuana Moment’s request.
“We found that support for the amendment to legalize steadily decreased as age increased,” Alyssa Maurice, a research associate with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, said. “Among 18-29 year old respondents, 88% said they supported it. Among 30-49 year-olds, 76% supported. 60% of 50-64 year-olds and 52% of those 65 and older did.
“There was also stronger support among those who identify as Democrats (76%) than Republicans (52%),” she said.
In terms of topline numbers, nine percent of respondents said they were neutral on the legal cannabis issue, one percent said they weren’t sure and another one percent refused to answer the question. The poll involved interviews with 721 likely voters from October 7 to 13 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points.
Meanwhile, New Jersey isn’t the only state that appears poised to approve cannabis reform this election cycle. Two polls released on Thursday show Arizona’s marijuana legalization ballot measure with a solid lead. And a survey from earlier this week found that 49 percent of Montana likely voters are in favor of recreational legalization proposals on the ballot, with 10 percent still undecided.
In New Jersey, the marijuana referendum has the support of top state officials and a robust campaign operation.
NJ CAN 2020, one of two campaign committees working to pass the cannabis referendum, released a series of English- and Spanish-language video ads earlier this week. Meanwhile, campaign finance records compiled by the state this week show that legal marijuana supporters are out-raising opponents by a ratio of nearly 130:1.
Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who has been strongly campaigning for the legalization proposal and stressed at a fundraiser for the campaign that the state “can’t fail” at enacting reform this round, also urged a “yes” vote in a separate ad released by NJ CAN 2020 this month.
The governor has said that the ongoing criminalization of cannabis in New Jersey wastes taxpayer dollars, and he’s emphasized that prohibition is enforced in a racially disproportionate manner. Murphy similarly said in a recent interview that the marijuana reform proposal prioritizes social justice.
“I wish we could have gotten it done through a legislative process,” he said at the time, referencing lawmakers’ inability to advance a legalization bill last session. “We just couldn’t find the last few votes, so it’s on the referendum. I’m strongly supporting it—first and foremost for social justice reasons.”
Last month, Murphy also called on voters to support the proposal in an email blast that was circulated by the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.
“Legalization would right those wrongs while also spurring massive economic development opportunities, job creation, and new tax revenue,” the governor wrote. “Now, we have the opportunity to get this done and finally legalize adult-use marijuana here in the Garden State, and I need your help to make it happen.”
He said in July that legalizing cannabis is “an incredibly smart thing to do” both from an economic and social justice perspective.
The governor isn’t alone in his attempts to get out the vote for cannabis reform. Filmmaker Kevin Smith urged his Twitter followers earlier this month to “VOTE YES when you see State Public Question Number 1: Constitutional Amendment to Legalize Marijuana.”
NJ CAN 2020 launched its first video ad promoting the legalization referendum last month.
Legislators attempted to enact the policy change during the last session, but when negotiations stalled, they opted to put the question to voters in the form of a referendum. If the measure is approved on Election Day, the legislature will then have to pass implementing legislation containing details for how the legal cannabis market will work.
In June, the state Assembly passed a cannabis decriminalization bill that would make possession of up to two ounces a civil penalty without the threat of jail time, though it hasn’t advanced in the Senate.
Meanwhile, a key state senator said that legislative leaders are close to finalizing a bill to implement the details of a legal cannabis framework. He said it could be passed in the first week of November if voters approve the ballot referendum.
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