Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
By nearly a 2-1 ratio, New Mexico voters say they would support legislation to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales to adults, according to a Journal Poll.
A majority of voters in all five geographic areas of the state – from liberal north-central New Mexico to the more conservative eastside – say they would support a measure to legalize marijuana.
Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc., which conducted the survey, said the results reflect a broader change in public opinion over the years on a variety of social issues.
“Imagine asking this question 10 years ago in eastern New Mexico,” Sanderoff said in an interview. “We would have found support levels much lower in these conservative strongholds.”
Altogether, the survey shows 60 percent of likely, proven voters in New Mexico would support a bill to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales to adults 21 and over. Thirty-two percent said they were opposed, and the rest had mixed feelings, didn’t know or wouldn’t say.
Support levels varied in different parts of the state, but a majority of those polled in every region said they would support legalizing marijuana. The results ranged from 73 percent support in north-central New Mexico to 52 percent in eastern New Mexico.
But there were stark differences based on party affiliation.
Seventy-four percent of Democratic voters said they supported marijuana legalization, while just 18 percent were opposed.
Among Republicans, meanwhile, 53 percent were opposed and only 40 percent were in support.
Unaffiliated voters, or those registered with other parties, offered strong support, with 67 percent in favor and 29 percent opposed.
A majority of every age group surveyed also said they would support a bill to legalize marijuana, but the percentage of support dropped among older voters.
Among voters 18 to 34, 79 percent were in support. Among voters 65 and older, 51 percent were in support.
Both Hispanic and Anglo voters said they would support marijuana legalization. The sample sizes for other racial groups were too small to report their results with accuracy.
Support appears to be growing over time.
In 2014, a Journal Poll that asked a similar question found that 50 percent of likely voters opposed legalization. Forty-four percent were in support.
New Mexico already allows medical marijuana.
But proposals to legalize and tax recreational use have repeatedly failed to make it through the Legislature.
Democrats hold majorities in both chambers, but conservative Democrats have joined Republicans to block the legislation.
Advocates, however, say the political environment is changing. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who opposes legalization, cannot run for re-election because of term limits, and her two potential successors are split on the issue.
Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would support legalization of recreational marijuana under certain circumstances. The legislation would have to protect patients’ access to medical cannabis, address workplace intoxication, include provisions to keep marijuana away from children, and meet other standards, she said.
Republican Steve Pearce has opposed legalization. After legalizing marijuana, he said, other states have struggled with some downsides, such as driving while intoxicated and use by young people.
The Legislature, in any case, remains a barrier to legalization unless key Democrats change their minds. The entire House is up for election this year, but senators aren’t on the ballot until 2020.
“I think eventually the day will come in New Mexico when marijuana is legalized,” Sanderoff said. “But there are still some powerful legislators who are skeptical.”
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific sample of 423 registered voters who cast ballots in the 2014 and 2016 general elections and said they were very likely to vote in this year’s election.
The poll was conducted Sept. 7-13. The voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone. Both cellphone numbers (64 percent) and landlines (36 percent) of proven general election voters were used.