The Monmouth University poll released Thursday found 61% of respondents said they would vote for the measure, while 34% said they would vote against it. Another 5% had no opinion.
New Jersey lawmakers tried several times to legalize weed, but fell short of the necessary votes in the state Senate. Instead, they moved to pose the issue to voters on November’s ballot as a constitutional amendment.
While 61% of respondents said they would vote in favor of the ballot question, only 48% said they thought allowing those over 21 to purchase small quantities of marijuana for their own use from businesses licensed was a good idea. In contrast, 30% thought it was a bad idea and 22% had no opinion.
“Support for the marijuana ballot measure is widespread in part because many who have no opinion on whether legalization is a good idea and figure they might as well vote for it,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a statement.
Legal weed advocates have taken issue with the referendum process, worrying that a brief question will fail to address racial and social justice issues tied to marijuana, as well as tax revenue.
Currently, the question reads as follows:
Do you approve amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana called ‘cannabis’? Only adults at least 21 years of age could use cannabis. The State commission created to oversee the State’s medical cannabis program would also oversee the new, personal use cannabis market. Cannabis products would be subject to the State sales tax. If authorized by the Legislature, a municipality may pass a local ordinance to charge a local tax on cannabis products.”
If voters pass the question, pot won’t become immediately available. State lawmakers will still have to work out the details and pass enabling legislation to launch the industry.
Some worry that without those details in place, voters may be wary of green lighting legal weed.
“The poll numbers show that there is a lot of work to do to ensure success in November,” said Bill Caruso, an attorney who represents various cannabis-related clients and is a founding member of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. “The problem is the details of this proposal aren’t defined because the statute hasn’t passed yet. That’s going to be a problem going into the fall to try to explain to the public what will come If legalization happens.”
It’s not the first time a complicated issue has landed on the ballot in a diluted form. In 2016, voters overwhelming rejected a ballot question that would have expanded gambling to North Jersey. The question did not address how much the new casinos would pay in taxes and where they would be built.
But two years earlier, when asked to consider an amendment on the complex issue of bail reform, voters said yes. That came after lawmakers and former Gov. Chris Christie had passed legislation that worked out many of the details.
Taking a similar route with legal marijuana could give voters a clearer picture of the tax revenue the industry could bring, as well as the reparations that would be made to communities ravaged by the war on drugs.
In March, activists and stakeholders launched a campaign coalition to support the ballot measure, advocating for legislation that takes a racial and social justice approach.
The question has stronger support along party lines, with 74% of Democrats and 64% of independents in favor, compared to just 40% of Republicans.
When asked about legal weed’s impact on the economy, 62% of respondents said they believed it would help, while 10% said it could hurt the economy. Another question asked voters if legalizing would increase or decrease other drug related arrests, and 46% of respondents said they believed it would have no impact, while 27% predicted an increase and 22% believed arrests would decrease.
The poll, conducted between April 16 and 19, surveyed 704 residents over the age of 18.