A large majority of voters in Delaware want to legalize pot, a new poll finds – more evidence that the U.S. is moving in that direction by leaps and bounds.
Fifty-six percent of the poll’s 902 respondents said they support legalization and want to see it made law. Just 39 percent opposed the idea.
These are some of the nation’s most impressive pro-pot numbers. More Americans back legalization by the day, but national opinion polls usually peg support closer to 50 percent.
“I would say the numbers suggest solid support for fully legalizing marijuana in Delaware,” said Paul Brewer, a political communications professor at the University of Delaware and the poll’s supervisor. “The results also reflect what’s going on in public opinion at the national level, where the trends show a growing majority favoring legalization.”
MMJ legal since 2011
Delaware, one of the country’s smallest states, has allowed medical marijuana since 2011, when lawmakers passed a bill that made it the 16th state with MMJ. Patients with severe medical conditions are allowed to possess up to six ounces, and the first medical pot shop is slated to open outside Wilmington, Del., in early 2015.
Todd Kitchen, a local pro-cannabis activist, helped usher in medical weed. He said the new poll results indicate full reform is inevitable in Delaware.
Kitchen suffered a traumatic head injury in a car crash nine years ago. In addition to his injuries, he was left with chronic anxiety and arthritis. He uses marijuana to treat all these problems.
“A lot of people have been trying to change the attitude toward it and get out correct information to re-inform the public,” Kitchen said. “People are listening. They realize it’s not as bad as they thought it was.”
Strong support for full legalization
Sixteen states have already decriminalized cannabis, replacing criminal penalties for possession with small civil fines. Support for full legalization is considered relatively strong in both those states. In the District of Columbia, backing is much stronger.
It’s not clear whether the current level of voter support will be enough to make legalization happen. Gov. Jack Markell opposes the idea and is likely to veto any bill out of the state legislature.
“Since last year, the governor and his office have been talking with legislators and others about decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana and replacing criminal penalties with civil fines,” spokeswoman Kelly Bachman said. “While the governor would not support full legalization at this time without further studies and evidence of its consequences, he expects to have more conversations about reducing the criminal penalties on small amounts of marijuana in the months to come.”