Poll: Support grows for medical marijuana expansion

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 762 views 

Despite a slow rollout of medical cannabis in Arkansas, public support for the industry is growing.

A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of likely statewide voters shows the issue has gained momentum since its passage with 53% support in November 2016. In a survey conducted June 9-10, 2020, voters voiced a double-digit increase in approval.

Q: Do you support or oppose the use of medical marijuana in Arkansas?

67.5% Support
20.5% Oppose
12% Unsure

Arkansas lawmakers and regulators were slow to develop and implement the rules for issuing cultivation and dispensary licenses, and the process was hampered with a series of legal actions. Eventually, licenses were issued and over the past year more distribution outlets have opened.

As of June 3, the state of Arkansas reported that $86.38 million in medical marijuana sales have taken place cumulatively. At least 40% of first year medical marijuana sales occurred since March 1, according to state officials.

“We wanted to test attitudes on whether or not the legalization of medical cannabis is gaining or losing support. It appears that more Arkansans are supportive of the issue now that it is in the marketplace,” said Roby Brock, Talk Business & Politics Editor-in-Chief. “We also wanted to see if there is support for making medical marijuana more available through the issuance of expanded licenses and are voters ready to legalize recreational marijuana.”

The latest survey of 869 statewide likely voters was taken on Tuesday, June 9 and Wednesday, June 10 and has a margin of error of +/-3.3%. The following question tested potential expansion of marijuana in Arkansas. It was only asked of the 67.5% who supported medical marijuana.

Q: Recently, there have been significant increases in both the amount of medical marijuana sold in Arkansas and the number of medical marijuana patients with qualifying conditions. Knowing this, would you support:

23.5% Increasing the number of licensed medical marijuana cultivation and dispensaries
19% Legalizing recreational marijuana in Arkansas
46.5% Both
11% Unsure

“It would appear there is support for increasing licenses for medical marijuana,” Brock said. “Also, among the two-thirds of those supporting medical marijuana, a majority support recreational marijuana, which could be on the November ballot.”

This latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll will release more results over the next three days, including:

ANALYSIS
Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“In 2016, Arkansas voters passed medical marijuana at the ballot box with roughly 53% of the vote. According to this survey, voters have become more accepting of the program now that it’s been implemented, with overall support reaching 67.5%. Support for medical marijuana is highest among those under the age of 45 (75%+), yet two-thirds of voters 45 to 64 and more than half of voters 65+ say they support its use. Democrats (82%) and Independents (77%) view the medical marijuana issue similarly, while support is lower among Republicans (49% support to 34% oppose).

“Among voters that support the use of medical marijuana, 70% would support the issuance of additional cultivation and dispensary licenses and 64% would support legalization for recreational use. While voters who indicated that they opposed medical marijuana were not asked for their views on recreational use, assuming that they would also oppose recreational marijuana overall support for legalization would be approximately 44%.”

Dr. Jay Barth, emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College, also helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

“Over the years of survey work by Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College, perhaps the most polled issued has been medical marijuana. Starting in 2012 when a minority of the state’s voters supported medical marijuana (a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana with a grow-your-own provision barely failed in that election), we have watched support for the legal use of marijuana for those medical conditions grow and grow in the Arkansas electorate. In the 2016 election cycle, a new constitutional amendment passed 53%-47% (with its passage aided by the removal from the ballot of a competing measure). Since then, the state delayed implementation of medical marijuana in Arkansas as both cultivators and dispensaries were slow to get up and running.

“The voters of the state, however, have continued to grow in their support for medical marijuana as implementation has occurred. This survey shows over two-thirds of the state’s voters supportive of legalized medical marijuana in Arkansas. The major shift in attitudes on the subject has been with Republican voters. Now, a healthy plurality of GOPers (49%) support medical marijuana along with majorities of Democrats (82%) and Independents (77%). As has been throughout its time on the Arkansas political scene, age has been strongly correlated with support for expanded marijuana legalization. In this survey, over three in four of those under the age of 45 support medical marijuana. Voters of color are decidedly more supportive of medical marijuana than are white voters. Interestingly, the gender gap that has shown itself on the issue in the past has now closed and no difference in attitudes exists between men and women voters.

“As has been shown across the United States, the COVID-19 era has been a period of increased sales in states with medical or recreational marijuana. Arkansas is not an exception to that pattern as lines have shown up around the state’s dispensaries. We asked how Arkansas should respond to this enhanced interest in legal marijuana. Just under half of medical marijuana supporters believe it is time to both expand the sales of medical marijuana and also legalize recreational use of the substance in Arkansas. Just under one-fourth of medical marijuana supporters believe it is time to make recreational marijuana legal also while a slightly smaller percentage are not ready to take that step but do wish for an increase in the number of licenses given to dispensaries across the state. The general political and demographic patterns shown on medical marijuana itself also shows itself on the expansion of marijuana’s availability. Republicans are more likely to go with the more conservative stance of expanding the practice already enshrined in law rather than moving towards the legalization of recreational pot. This is also true for older voters as opposed to younger voters, voters of color as opposed to white voters, and women as opposed to male voters. The tide towards expanded access to legalized marijuana in Arkansas is clear. The only questions are how and when that expansion occurs in the first southern state to greenlight marijuana’s legal use.”

METHODOLOGY
This survey of 869 likely Arkansas voters was conducted June 9-10, 2020, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3%. Respondents were contacted via text message and given a unique link to complete the survey online.

Age
Under 30 4.2%
Between 30-44 24.2%
Between 45-64 43.1%
65 and over 28.5%

Race
Black 10.2%
Asian 1.0%
White 83.2%
Hispanic 0.5%
Native American 1.5%
Other 3.6%

Party affiliation
Democrat 30.7%
Independent 27.8%
Republican 37.4%
Other 4.1%

Gender
Female 51.7%
Male 48.3%

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College. A link back to this specific story is also required for any digital or online usage by other media outlets.

For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at [email protected] or Dr. Jay Barth by email at [email protected]

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