Poll: 59 percent of Pennsylvania voters support legalizing recreational cannabis

By: - March 28, 2019 5:00 am

As Lt. Gov. John Fetterman tours the state seeking input on recreational cannabis, a clear majority of Pennsylvania voters say in a new poll they support legalization.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday shows 59 percent of respondents support legalizing marijuana. That number is unchanged from F&M’s May 2017 survey.

The number of voters who said they do not support cannabis legalization rose from 31 percent in 2017 to 34 percent in 2019.

Attitudes toward marijuana dramatically shifted in Pennsylvania between May 2006 — when F&M first asked the question in its survey — and May 2017. The number of respondents who said they support legalizing marijuana grew from 22 percent to 56 percent during that time.

Voter support for legalization has leveled out in recent years. But at least one Pennsylvania official’s stance has shifted — slightly.

As recently as August, Gov. Tom Wolf said Pennsylvania was not “ready for recreational marijuana.” But just a few months later, as New York and New Jersey moved toward legalization, he announced on Twitter that it was “time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look” at the issue.

That “serious and honest look” has taken the form of a 67-county listening tour headed by Fetterman, who is personally in favor of legalization.

Supporters who attended events in Dauphin, Lancaster, and Schuylkill counties cited personal freedom, criminal justice, and a possible financial windfall as reasons to legalize cannabis.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimates that legalization would bring in $581 million in revenue annually.

Opponents from the addiction treatment world expressed concern over a lack of research and the potential to create another drug crisis.

Even with a majority of Pennsylvanians on board, Republican leadership in the General Assembly seems unlikely to advance legalization legislation.

Shortly after Wolf made his announcement, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, called the idea of legalizing cannabis “reckless and irresponsible.”

“Recreational marijuana is a mind-altering narcotic which will harm our youth as it is a depressant and a gateway drug to other illegal substances,” Corman said in a statement. “Combine that with a lack of credible research on the societal costs and opposition from prosecutors, the medical community and law enforcement and you have the makings of a catastrophe.”

Corman’s counterpart in the House, Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, voted against the creation of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program. Cutler in January told LNP, “The priorities of the House Republican Caucus do not include legalizing federally prohibited drugs.”

F&M surveyed 540 registered voters — 254 Democrats, 216 Republicans, and 70 independents —between March 18 and March 24, 2019. The sample error is plus or minus 5.5 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.

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