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Two polls show support for legal marijuana waning in Colorado, nationally

September 29, 2014 Updated: September 29, 2014 at 5:37 pm
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photo - PRRI asked 4,500 Americans about the intensity of their support for or opposition to legalizing marijuana, reports The Washington Post. (AP file)
PRRI asked 4,500 Americans about the intensity of their support for or opposition to legalizing marijuana, reports The Washington Post. (AP file) 

It might be characterized as a couple of "I told you so" victories for those who oppose the legalization of marijuana.

Two recent polls show that support of legalized marijuana have waned, and that there is unhappiness in the way regulations are handled by the state.

A Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that about half of Coloradans are not happy with the new marijuana law and how it is administered.

"Although it's a close split overall, opposition comes mainly from women statewide who oppose it 56 percent to 41 percent and additional push back from voters over 55 years of age," Dave Paleologos, director of the Boston-based Suffolk University Political Research Center, noted on the center's website. "This is offset by younger voters between 18 and 45 who still support it by a 20-point margin."

Numbers show that 49 percent of those polled, do not approve of how the state is managing pot, compared with 42 percent who approve.

Another poll last week, by the Public Religion Research Institute, says national support for legalized marijuana has fallen from 51 percent in 2013 to 44 percent this year.

The drop was concentrated among those who had favored marijuana, but not those who strongly favored legalization. Opposition increased among those who strongly opposed legal marijuana, according to the Sept. 23 American Values Survey 2014 conducted by PRRI.

Diane Carlson,a founder of Smart Colorado, says there needs to be more enforcement and also preventive education for kids.

"This has been an incredibly complicated and daunting task for the state," she said. "And unfortunately certain municipalities moved forward before protections could be put in place."

Colorado started selling recreational marijuana Jan. 1, becoming the first state to do so, although it is illegal at the federal level. Voters approved the initiative in 2012 by a vote of 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent against. State voters approved medical marijuana in 2000.

Since then polls have come fast and furious, and they are fickle. For example, an NBC/Maris poll this summer said 55 percent of adults favor the legal status.

Rachel Gillette, executive director of Colorado NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws), said the plethora of polls should be taken with a grain of salt.

"None of them can be counted on for complete accuracy," she said.

But bottom line, all this polling doesn't change anything.

Andrew Freedman,the governor's director of marijuana coordination, said in an email, "Polls may differ on support for marijuana throughout Colorado. In the end, there's really only one poll that matters: Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment legalizing use and sale of recreational marijuana."

He added, "While the governor and others initially opposed Amendment 64, this is no longer a political issue - Democracy demands carrying out the will of the voters and implementing marijuana legalization as fairly, efficiently, effectively and safely as possible."

Skyler McKinley, deputy director of marijuana coordination, added that it's too early for a definitive evaluation.

"It's not all been successful, but in specific areas we are doing very well."

McKinley said from day one there was a strong regulatory oversight system in place that focused on youth prevention, public safety and public health. And the state created a comprehensive tax structure that pays for the regulation and education.

One thing is for sure: Sales are puffing along. Figures released by the state Department of Revenue this month show that recreational pot outsold medical marijuana for the first time in July.

Dispensaries generated $29.7 million in sales versus $28.9 million for medical marijuana, according to Marijuana Business Daily, which projects that Colorado could have a quarter billion dollars in total marijuana sales this year.

"It's a great social experiment," Gillette said. "Reform takes time. You don't go out of the box perfectly. We will have lessons to be learned along the way."

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Contact Carol McGraw: 636-0371

Twitter @mcgrawatGazette

Facebook Carol.McGraw1

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