Majority of Pennsylvania voters want legal cannabis, poll shows — just not in state stores

By: - October 31, 2019 5:30 am

A majority of Pennsylvania voters support legalizing cannabis for recreational use, a new Franklin & Marshall College poll shows.

What they don’t want? Marijuana sold through the commonwealth’s more than 600 state-owned liquor stores.

The poll released Thursday shows 58 percent of voters support legalization, a number consistent with March polling by the Lancaster, Pa.-based college.

Pollsters also asked, “How likely would you be to support the legalization of marijuana if it were sold by the state liquor stores instead of by private companies?”

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they would be somewhat or much less likely to support legalization under those circumstances. Another 32 percent said the idea would make them much more or somewhat more likely to back legalization, while 11 percent did not know.

In September, Gov. Tom Wolf for the first time said he backed legalizing cannabis for adult recreational use. The Democrat’s announcement followed a 67-county listening tour undertaken by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman that found a “substantial majority” of Pennsylvanians are for legalization.

The following month, Rep. David Delloso, D-Delaware, introduced a plan that would legalize recreational cannabis and allow it to be sold through Pennsylvania’s state store system.

Tanqueray and chronic? Pa. House Democrat wants to sell legal cannabis in state liquor stores

“What I’m afraid of is if we don’t sell [marijuana] in the state stores, that big corporate interests throughout the United States are going to come to Pennsylvania and they’re going to put corner stores up that won’t provide family sustaining jobs, and all the profits are going to leave Pennsylvania,” Delloso said at the time.

Despite the support, any proposal to legalize cannabis seems unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

“Calling on the Legislature to act now on marijuana legalization serves only as a distraction from the important work lawmakers carry out in Harrisburg and in their home districts,” the House Republican leadership said in a statement following Wolf’s September announcement.

Some Republicans have signaled they are willing to discuss decriminalization, or making possession of cannabis a summary offense, rather than a crime punishable by jail time.

The poll was conducted between Oct. 21 and 27. It reached 482 registered voters — 226 Democrats, 188 Republicans, and 68 independents — and has a margin of error of plus or minus 6.1 percentage points.

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.