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LANSING, MI — Michigan voters remain divided on the prospects of statewide marijuana legalization, but with recreational use already allowed in Colorado and Washington state, advocates say momentum is on their side.
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A new poll conducted by EPIC-MRA of Lansing shows that 50 percent of Michigan voters would be likely to support a future ballot proposal to legalize the possession or cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 years of age or older and allow taxable sales at state-licensed stores.
 
A similar poll from a year earlier had pegged voter support for legalizing marijuana by taxing it and regulating it like alcohol at 47 percent.
 
The new survey of 600 likely voters, conducted December 10 through 14 with 20 percent of calls to cell phones, has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points. The legalization question was commissioned by the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
 
Forty six percent of respondents said they would vote against a future marijuana legalization ballot proposal, while four percent were undecided.
 
Matthew Abel, an attorney with the Cannabis Counsel in Detroit and executive director of MiNORML, said the latest numbers show that the public is “continuing to move in favor” of legalization.
MARIJUANA POLL RESULTS
 
On another topic, voters may circulate petitions to place a proposal on a future election ballot relating to the issue of marijuana. The proposal would make the possession and cultivation of limited amounts marijuana legal in the State of Michigan for adults age 21 or older. Also, it would allow the sale of marijuana to adults age 21 or older only by stores that would be licensed by the state, and finally, it would tax the sale of marijuana by these state licensed stores. If this proposal were to appear on a future election ballot, if the election were held today, would you vote yes to approve of the proposal, or would you vote no to oppose it?
 
39% Definitely vote yes
9% Probably vote yes
2% Lean toward voting yes
50% TOTAL VOTE YES
46% TOTAL VOTE NO
35% Definitely vote no
8% Probably vote no
3% Lean toward voting no
4% Undecided/Refused
 
Source: EPIC-MRA survey December 10-14, 2014
 
“Once people understand the effect that it’s had and analyze the statistics, they generally agree it’s a net win for society,” said Abel. “…Everybody knows you can get marijuana anywhere, so it’s time that we remove the taint of prohibition and the ill effects.”
 
A statewide ballot proposal remains a hypothetical at this point. National funders usually want to see support at closer to 60 percent before backing what would surely be an expensive campaign, Abel said.
 
In the meantime, Abel said he’s hopeful the poll results will influence nontraditional funders or policy makers in Lansing, where bipartisan decriminalization legislation was introduced last session but did not advance.
 
Results of the Michigan poll appear consistent with national numbers. Fifty-one percent of Americans support legalization, according to an October Gallup poll, but that was down from a one-time peak of 58 percent in 2013.
 
The Gallup poll showed “that legalization is far from inevitable and the fight to stop it is far from over,” Kevin A. Sabet, the president of a group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said at the time. He noted that support appeared to drop at the same time marijuana stores opened in Colorado and Washington.
 
“The lesson here is that legalization in theory does not look like legalization in practice,” Sabet said in a statement.
 
Oregon will become the third state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana after voters approved a ballot proposal in November, but Florida voters rejected a medical marijuana proposal the same month.
 
Michigan voters approved the state’s medical marijuana law in 2008, and at least 17 communities have since decriminalized marijuana, including six in November. However, voters in five other communities rejected local proposals last fall.
 
State and national polls have pointed to significant support for legalization by young voters. In Michigan, 69 percent of respondents between the age of 18 and 34 said they would likely vote for a legalization proposal.
 
Support for Michigan legalization was highest amongst men, particularly Democrats, and strongest in Metro Detroit. Tea party supporters, Republican women and voters in the Bay area were among the demographics strongly opposed.
 
Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group 
 
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