Medical marijuana

Demonstrators walk toward the Wyoming Capitol to urge the state to legalize marijuana in February 2014 in Cheyenne. 

File, Star-Tribune

More Wyoming residents support legalizing marijuana now than two years ago, according to a survey released earlier this week.

Further, most survey respondents also favor nixing jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Support for medical marijuana (with a doctor’s prescription) increased from 74 percent in 2014 to 81 percent in 2016.

Marijuana for personal use also saw increased support, from 37 percent in 2014 to 41 percent in 2016, though the majority of respondents are still against doing so.

Additionally, 72 percent of Wyoming residents say possession of small amounts of marijuana should not result in jail time, compared with 66 percent in 2014.

The phone survey of 722 Wyoming residents has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent and was conducted by the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center at the University of Wyoming earlier this month.

It was sponsored by the Survey and Analysis Center and the UW political science department.

A similar survey was conducted in 2014.

Dr. Jim King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming, said the results, especially for medical marijuana, jibe with national trends.

“I think we have generally seen more support for medical marijuana legalization,” he said. “That’s a number that’s been going up nationally in the polls.”

Generally, he said, younger people support marijuana legalization and older people oppose it.

Thus, as more young people become of voting age, support is changing.

“Generally, attitudes on marijuana use have relaxed over the years,” King said.

The survey results support that notion.

Younger age groups were more supportive of more lenient marijuana laws, with the majority of 18- to 24-year-olds and 25- to 29-year-olds in favor of allowing personal use.

In addition, 91 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds favor allowing medical marijuana, “declining linearly” to 63 percent of those 75 and older.

The only age group in which a majority thought that small marijuana possession should result in jail was those 75 and older.

Men were more in favor of personal legalization than women, but the genders were about equal in support of medical legalization.

Men were also more likely to be against jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The same set of questions was asked for the 2014 survey, which had 768 respondents, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Brian Harnisch, a research scientist at the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, said the questions are expected to be asked again in 2018.

This year’s survey also included asking voter opinions on U.S. House and presidential candidates, he said. Those results were released earlier this week.

The 2016 survey comes at a time when the Wyoming Legislature is considering regulations for marijuana-infused products and changing penalties for marijuana possession.

Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have legalized marijuana for both recreational and medical use.

Twenty other states, including Montana, have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Next month, voters in California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Voters in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota have medical marijuana measures on the ballot.

Montana also has a medical measure on the ballot that would repeal many of the restrictions the state legislature placed on the industry.

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