Texas poll shows majority support for legalizing recreational cannabis

A majority of registered voters in Texas support legalizing recreational cannabis, according to results of a statewide poll released this week. The Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler Poll found that 55% of Texans said they either support or strongly support the legalization of adult-use cannabis. The percentage of voters who support legalizing medical marijuana was even larger, with 72% saying they support or strongly support legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Overall, 34% of respondents said they strongly support the legalization of marijuana for adult use, while 21% said they support the move. Just over a third opposed the legalization of recreational cannabis, with 14% saying they opposed it and 21% saying they strongly opposed it, while 9% said they neither support nor oppose legalization.

Support for the legalization of adult-use cannabis varied by political affiliation. Among Democrats, 38% said they strongly support legalizing marijuana, and 27% said they support changing the policy. Independent voter support for recreational cannabis was also strong, with 42% saying they strongly support legalization and 21% saying they support it. Support for legalizing recreational cannabis was weakest among Republicans, with 26% and 17% saying they strongly support and support legalization, respectively.

Laurie Richardson, a Democrat from Frisco, Texas, who took part in the poll said she has never smoked cannabis. But she added that she knows cannabis has medicinal benefits, and when it comes to personal use, “prohibition doesn’t work.”

“We’ve tried banning alcohol, and then there’s all these people trying to make their own alcohol and people getting alcohol poisoning — I think the same with marijuana,” Richardson said. “I just don’t think you’ll be able to stop people from accessing it if they want to. I think it has to be treated almost like alcohol.”

Almost half of Republicans oppose the legalization of cannabis for adults

Almost half of the Republicans polled said they oppose the legalization of cannabis for adults. While 16% said they were against, 32% said they were strongly against.

“If they legalize it, there’s going to be a pharmacy popping up on every corner of our town, and that’s not really something I look forward to every day,” said Edwin Kirby of Texas, a Republican and one of the poll’s respondents. “With the drug problems we now have with young children, that’s just going to add fuel to the fire.”

Legalizing recreational cannabis is even less popular with Republican leaders in Texas. While Gov. Greg Abbot has said he supports reducing the marijuana possession charge to a misdemeanor rather than a felony, he opposes broader cannabis policy reforms. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick was an active Prohibitionist, preventing cannabis reform legislation from being discussed in the Texas Senate. And at the GOP convention in Texas in June, Republicans approved a party platform opposed to the legalization of recreational cannabis.

Even stronger support for medicinal cannabis in Texas

Support for legalizing medical marijuana was even stronger among voters in Texas. State legislators passed strictly limited legislation in 2015 to allow the medical use of cannabis oil with less than 0.5% THC to treat epilepsy, and since then some reforms have been made to expand the program. Earlier this year, lawmakers approved an extension to patients with cancer and PTSD, but Texas’ medical cannabis program remains one of the strictest in the country.

Overall, the survey found that 72% of respondents support legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes, including 44% who say they strongly support the move and 28% who say they support it. Among Democrats, three-quarters support legalizing medical cannabis, with 49% saying they strongly support legalization and 26% saying they support it. Support was stronger among independents, with 51% saying they strongly support drug legalization and 26% saying they support the change. Two-thirds of Republicans support legalizing medical cannabis, with 35% saying they strongly support the move and 32% saying they support it.

“I have a son who was in the Marine Corps and he uses it for medical purposes,” said Paula Miller, a Republican in Diboll, Texas, who responded to the poll. “If anything, they need to make alcohol illegal,” she added after noticing a family member died in a road accident caused by a drunk driver.

The new poll, released on Monday, showed a drop in support for cannabis legalization compared to earlier this year. The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler poll, released in May, showed that 83% supported legalizing medical marijuana and 60% supported legalizing cannabis for adult use.

The new Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler poll was conducted August 1-7 and polled a representative sample of 1,358 registered voters by telephone on a variety of topics of interest to Texans. The survey has an error rate of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

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