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Colorado weighs strategy for guarding against pot crackdown

Matt Hart holds up a bud of Lemon Skunk, the most potent strain of marijuana available at the 3D Dispensary in Denver on Dec. 9, 2014. A new Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll shows that a majority of Illinoisans support legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana.

CARBONDALE — Large majorities of Illinois voters support marijuana decriminalization and legalization for recreational use, according to the results of the latest poll from Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Seventy-four percent of voters support or strongly support decriminalizing marijuana where people in possession of small amounts for personal consumption would not be prosecuted but may be fined. Twenty-one percent oppose or strongly oppose decriminalization and 5 percent answered otherwise.

In 2016, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a law decriminalizing up to 10 grams of marijuana. Under the new law, people caught with up to 10 grams can face fines of $100 to $200 and potential municipal penalties, instead of facing a Class B misdemeanor and potentially six months in jail and $1,500 in fines under previous law.

Support is also strong for legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Sixty-six percent of voters support or strongly support legalization of recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol. A notable 45 percent of voters strongly support legalization. Only 31 percent of voters oppose or strongly oppose and 3 percent answered otherwise.

Bills introduced in the Illinois House and Senate last week would allow residents 21 and older to possess, buy and grow up to an ounce of marijuana. The legislation would also regulate and allow businesses to sell marijuana products. There are no plans to move the legislation forward in the current session, according to The Associated Press.

“Illinois voters are growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of decriminalizing marijuana and we now have evidence that most see it as a potential revenue source for the state,” Jak Tichenor, institute interim director, said in a news release.

A March 2016 Simon Poll showed 51 percent opposed recreational use of marijuana while 45 percent approved. When coupled with the idea of regulating and taxing it like alcohol, this year’s poll showed a 21 percent increase in the number of people who approve recreational use.

Strong support for decriminalization across demographics

decriminalization

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In Chicago, 80 percent of voters support or strongly support decriminalization, statistically the same as their neighbors in suburban Cook and the collar counties who support or strongly support at 79 percent. In the rural regions outside Cook and the collar counties, 63 percent of voters supported or strongly supported decriminalization. Opposition or strong opposition by voters in Chicago is 16 percent, in suburban Cook and collar counties is 17 percent, and 31 percent outside Cook and the collar counties.

Among Democrats, Republicans and independents, Democrats’ support is strongest with 81 percent stating they support or strongly support decriminalization. Only 15 percent of Democrats oppose or strongly oppose decriminalization and 4 percent answered otherwise. Independent voters followed Democrats with 76 percent of independents supporting or strongly supporting decriminalization and 17 percent opposing or strongly opposing. Sixty-six percent of Republicans support or strongly support decriminalization and 30 percent oppose or strongly oppose.

Illinois voters younger than 35 show the most approval with 83 percent supporting or strongly supporting decriminalization. Fifteen percent are opposed. Voters 35 to 50 years old support or strongly support at 81 percent, and oppose or strongly oppose at 15 percent. Seventy-seven percent of 51- to 65-year-old voters support or strongly support decriminalization. Nineteen percent oppose or strongly oppose. Sixty-seven percent of baby boomers and the greatest generation 66 and older support or strongly support decriminalization while 28 percent oppose or strongly oppose.

“These data show that virtually all Illinoisans have opinions on cannabis decriminalization and legalization. Few people seem indifferent on these issues,” Delio Calzolari, associate institute director and one of the poll designers, said in the release. “A vast majority appears to philosophically agree with decriminalization like the steps taken last year, although the definition of decriminalization and amounts in question are debatable. There is also overwhelming support for new cannabis public policy for recreational use shown.”

Support for legalization of recreational use varies among demographics

legalization

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In Chicago, 74 percent of voters support or strongly support legalization of marijuana for recreational use if taxed and regulated like alcohol. In suburban Cook and the collar counties, support or strong support is 70 percent. In rural Illinois outside Cook and the collar counties, 54 percent of voters supported or strongly supported legalization. Opposition or strong opposition by voters in Chicago is 22 percent, suburban Cook and collar counties is 27 percent, and 43 percent outside Cook and the collar counties.

Among Democrats, Republicans and independents, Democrats’ support is strongest among the three groups with 76 percent stating they support or strongly support recreational legalization if taxed and regulated like alcohol. Only 21 percent of Democrats oppose or strongly oppose recreational legalization and 3 percent answered otherwise. Independent voters followed Democrats with 68 percent of independents supporting or strongly supporting recreational use and 27 percent opposing or strongly opposing. A slight majority of Republicans, 52 percent, support or strongly support legalization while 46 percent oppose.

Illinois voters younger than 35 show the most favorability to legalization of recreational marijuana if taxed and regulated like alcohol. Eighty-three percent support or strongly support the proposition. This percentage is identical to the same support for decriminalization. Seventeen percent are opposed. Voters 35 to 50 years old support or strongly support at 77 percent, and oppose or strongly oppose at 22 percent. Among 51- to 65-year-old voters, 69 percent support or strongly support legalization and 28 percent oppose or strongly oppose. Baby boomers and the greatest generation 66 and older are split on the issue with 51 percent stating they support or strongly support legalization of recreational marijuana if taxed and regulated like alcohol and 45 percent stating they oppose or strongly oppose.

The Simon Poll was conducted March 4-11. The sample included 1,000 randomly selected registered voters and a margin for error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Sixty percent of the interviews were with respondents on cellphones.

More information and complete poll results are available at SimonPoll.org.

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