On June 18, 2016, the Wisconsin State Journal published a letter I wrote, “Marquette poll should ask people about pot.” I tweeted the link to Prof. Charles Franklin, head of the Marquette Law School Poll. Whether it was coincidence or “Ask and you shall receive,” a new Marquette poll was released July 13 that for the first time in 22 months included questions about cannabis.
The poll found that support for legalizing adult use of cannabis in Wisconsin is now at 59%, an increase of 13% since Sept. 2014, when the Marquette Poll last asked about legalization support. The poll was conducted July 7-10 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. The Marquette poll’s historic 59% support level likely represents the highest level ever registered as favoring legalizing adult use in the Badger State.
With nearly 6 of 10 Wisconsinites now in support of cannabis legalization on top of previous polling showing 8 of 10 supporting legalizing medical use, state lawmakers continue to look far out of touch with the majority of state residents.
— IMMLY.org (@IMMLY) June 18, 2016
Here is the section on Cannabis and other illegal substances from the July 13, 2016 Marquette Poll:
Views on illegal drugs
Registered voters were asked, “When it comes to marijuana, some people think that the drug should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol. Do you agree or disagree with that view?” Fifty-nine percent say they agree while 39 percent disagree. In September 2014, when the poll last asked about marijuana, a different question wording was used: “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?” In that poll, 46 percent said it should be legal and 51 percent said it should not be legal.
In the July poll, 42 percent of Republicans agree that marijuana should be legal while 56 percent disagree. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats agree it should be legal while 30 percent disagree. Independents divide with 63 percent supporting legalization and 36 opposed.
Asked to agree or disagree that each of four drugs “is a major problem in the area where I live,” 41 percent agree that marijuana is a major problem while 53 percent disagree.
Sixty-two percent agree that heroin is a major problem where they live while 30 percent disagree.
Fifty-four percent agree that methamphetamine or “crystal meth” is a major problem in their area while 39 percent do not think so.
Forty-three percent say crack cocaine is a major problem while 46 percent disagree that it is a major problem where they live.
The questions about cannabis are already stirring public discussion of this issue. Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), sponsor of legalization proposals the last two sessions, issued this release July 13 regarding this surge in public opinion that included the following:
“The tide in Wisconsin is turning. People here understand that the most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it remains illegal. Ending marijuana prohibition would promote personal freedom and liberty, create financial opportunity for our state, and increase safety and security in our communities. “As is often the case, the people are ahead of the politicians on this issue. It is my hope that my colleagues across the aisle will work with me next session when I, once again, introduce my bill to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin for those over 21.”
The Wisconsin State Journal also quickly published an article which also cited Rep. Sargent’s release, “Poll: Strong majority of Wisconsinites want legal marijuana.”
Fresh polling data showing strong majority support for cannabis legalization is good news for reform in Wisconsin, and good news for the local efforts in Monona, Tomah and other places. The same poll that found 59% support for legalizing pot found a favorability rating of only 38% for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has repeatedly spoken out against cannabis legalization. Walker’s term ends Jan. 2019 and he has not yet announced if he’ll seek reelection in Nov. 2018. With 2016 an election year for all 99 state assembly representatives and half the 33-member state senate, cannabis needs to be an election issue in Wisconsin. It is now up to candidates who oppose legalization to defend their position to voters.