Majority of Michigan voters support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana

Published on Sep 18, 2013

LANSING, MI -- A majority of Michigan voters now support legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana in some capacity, according to the results of a new statewide poll.

EPIC-MRA of Lansing conducted a live-operator survey from September 7 to 10, asking 600 likely voters what they thought about Michigan's current marijuana laws. The poll has a margin of error of four percent.

Nearly half of the respondents (46 percent) said they favor legalizing marijuana by taxing it and regulating it like alcohol. Another 16 percent said they support replacing criminal penalties with fines, and four percent said they favor repealing all state criminal penalties for marijuana offenses.

The question, part of a larger poll about the direction of the state and its political leadership, was commissioned by Michigan NORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Approximately 1 in 4 residents (26 percent) would like Michigan to continue its present system of criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, according to the poll.

"There's been kind of a sea change of opinion over the last two years," said EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn. "In 2010, when there were petitions circulated to legalize marijuana, we found 45 percent who said they would say no. That's a significant change."

Michigan's numbers are relatively consistent with national polling on marijuana. Results of a March survey conducted by The Pew Research Center indicated that 52 percent of Americans say that the drug should be legal, up 11 percentage points since 2010.

The Michigan poll was conducted just weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice issued new guidelines directing prosecutors to respect state-level marijuana laws even though the drug remains illegal at the federal level. Two states, Colorado and Washington, recently legalized marijuana while several others have decriminalized the drug.

Matthew Abel, a Detroit attorney who serves as executive director of Michigan NORML, said he hopes the poll will motivate the state Legislature to act on a bipartisan marijuana decriminalization proposal introduced earlier this year by state Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor. 

"I think it shows that people are way ahead of the politicians on this," Abel said Monday. "Michiganders are desirous of having marijuana laws be less restrictive. Clearly, a large majority of people feel that marijuana possession and use should not be a criminal offense."

Critics, including Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, have argued against marijuana decriminalization, suggesting lighter penalties could encourage use and expose more children to the drug.

Without legislative action, Abel said, marijuana activists could look toward a ballot proposal in 2016 if they are able to secure enough funding for what would be an expensive and time-consuming process.


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