This week the Vermont Senate is expected to consider legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. And according to a new VPR Poll, a majority of Vermonters favor the idea.
The poll, conducted for VPR by the Castleton Polling Institute, shows 55 percent of respondents support legalization, 32 percent are opposed and the remainder are not sure or have no opinion.
The VPR Poll was made possible by the VPR Journalism Fund. Explore the full results here.
Where people have an opinion on marijuana legalization, it is generally a strong opinion.
“There’s a lot of intensity of opinion. The people most strongly in opinion are the ones opposed,” says Castleton Polling institute director Rich Clark.
“I absolutely oppose it as a mother, as a grandmother, as a teacher,” says Mary McGinnis of Dorset, one of those contacted for the VPR Poll.
“For people who are still growing and whose brains are still forming, this is a dangerous drug,” she says. “I don’t care about the 75-year-old hippy. He’s practically gone anyway. But I do care about the children. They’re our future, and a bunch of politicians who are just looking for a revenue source are looking to pass this.”
But perhaps even the 75-year-old hippy has doubts about legalization.
The VPR Poll shows older Vermonters – those 65 and up – are the only age group where the majority opposes legalization. On the other hand, more than two thirds of 18- to 44-year-olds favor it.
“I don’t buy the argument that it’s a gateway drug,” says Darcy Hamlin of Braintree, another poll respondent.
“For me it’s no different than alcohol," Hamlin says. "We shouldn't be filling up our prisons or clogging our courts with something as trivial as marijuana. It could boost our tax base by letting us tax it to death.”
It appears that on this subject, Vermonters’ minds were made up even before Colorado legalized marijuana in late 2012.
Castleton Polling Institute surveyed Vermonters on the legalization question earlier that year. That and subsequent polls have shown little change in opinion.
“It’s always remained a majority – never a supermajority, but always a majority,” says Castleton's Rich Clark. “Reliability in public opinion polling isn’t the norm that you would hope it would be, but this has been one issue so far that’s stayed very stable.”
Clark says in spite of the strongly held opinions on marijuana legalization, it’s not clear that this is the kind of deciding issue that will affect voter choices when they select state senators and representatives in the fall election.