ERIE, PA — A new poll released Friday by the Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP) shows that a super majority 85% of Pennsylvania voters believe that patients should be allowed to use medical marijuana when recommended by a doctor. Only 10% were opposed.
The poll also found a solid majority of 59% in support of removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Respondents in favor of complete legalization outweighed those opposed by a 48% to 42% margin.
The poll of 495 registered voters was conducted Feb. 17-26.
“When it comes to Pennsylvania’s approach to regulating marijuana, voters in the Keystone State are clear: Keeping laws the same is not their preference,” pollsters concluded.
“Our findings suggest that the position of Pennsylvanians on the legalization of marijuana is largely consistent with the nation as a whole,” MCAP Director Joseph Morris said in a statement.
“While voters may be divided over the policy that they prefer, they are very clear about their preferences for the direction of change,” Morris said. “They want more people to have access to the drug, or at the very least to see penalties associated with marijuana use and possession reduced.”
The poll also found that a plurality of Pennsylvania voters (44%) disapprove of the job Tom Corbett, the state’s former attorney general who opposes any marijuana reform, is doing as governor.
When asked for whom they would vote if the election for governor was held today, a plurality (49%) say they would vote for an unnamed candidate from the Democratic Party, with 43% of those polled saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate that favored legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana.
Of the seven Democratic candidates for governor, former state Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger has made marijuana legalization a central theme of his campaign, and has received an endorsement from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) for his plan to decriminalize marijuana possession, allow medical marijuana, and legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol in the state.
At least three other Democratic candidates support some form of marijuana reform. Max Myers, a minister, says he is in favor of marijuana decriminalization and the eventual legalization of medical marijuana.
Tom Wolf, the current front runner for the Democratic nomination, supports legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing possession of small amounts, but says Pennsylvania should not consider legalizing marijuana until the impact of legalization can be determined in Colorado and Washington. Rob McCord, currently Pennsylvania’s treasurer, has a similar stance to Wolf.
And US Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who previously opposed marijuana reform, recently did an about-face on her stance, coming out in favor of medical marijuana and saying that she would be “open to consideration” of decriminalization if elected governor.
Currently, lawmakers in Harrisburg are considering a comprehensive bi-partisan medical marijuana bill introduced by Senators Daylin Leach, a Democrat, and Mike Folmer, a Republican.
Under the proposed Senate Bill 1182, “Governor Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act,” medical marijuana patients would be allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana or three ounces of marijuana infused products or concentrates.