Opinion | Civil Rights

Red or blue makes little difference when it comes to the question of legalizing marijuana

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

The adult use of marijuana is now legal in nine states - Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington - as well as the District of Columbia. Come November, additional states may be joining them.

Voters in North Dakota and Michigan will be deciding on marijuana legalization initiatives on Election Day. If past is precedent, these measures likely will emerge victorious at the polls in at least one, if not both, states.

But the fact remains that majority support for ending cannabis criminalization extends far beyond the boundaries of those individual states that have voted for it. In fact, according to statewide polling data compiled from throughout the year, if direct votes on the issue were held today, a majority of the country would be legal.


1. Sixty-two percent of Maryland adults support "making marijuana legal for recreational use," according to the results of a September 2018 Goucher College poll.

2. Fifty-six percent of likely voters in Minnesota believe that the adult use of marijuana ought to be legal, according to the findings of September 2018 Survey USA poll.

3. Sixty-one percent of Wisconsin voters say, "Marijuana should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol," concludes an August 2018 Marquette University survey.

4. Fifty-nine percent of voters in Connecticut support "allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use," according to survey data released in August 2018 by Quinnipiac University.

5. Fifty-three percent of Arizona voters "support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and over," according to the results of a June 2018 Emerson College poll.

6. Fifty-three percent of registered voters in Texas approve legalizing either small amounts of marijuana (30 percent) or any amount (23 percent), concludes a June 2018 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

7. Sixty-three percent of New Mexicans support regulating and taxing adult use marijuana sales, according to the results of a May 2018 poll conducted by the firm Research & Polling Incorporated.

8. Fifty-five percent of Georgia voters endorse legalizing the use of marijuana by adults, according to a May 2018 Survey USA poll.

9. Sixty-three percent of New York voters support "allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use," according to the findings of a May 2018 Quinnipiac University poll.

10. Fifty-nine percent of New Jersey residents support "legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use" and 60 percent believe that "legalizing marijuana in New Jersey would help the state's economy," according to the results of an April 2018 Monmouth University survey.

11. Sixty-six percent of Illinois voters support "the legalization of recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol," according to survey data compiled in March 2018 by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

12. Fifty-six percent of New Hampshire residents support the passage of legislation to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use, according to a February 2018 UNH Granite State poll.

13. Sixty-two percent of registered voters in Florida support "legalizing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol," according to the results of a February 2018 poll conducted by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory.

Evident from this state-specific data is the reality that Americans' desire for cannabis legalization is bipartisan - with voters in blue and red states alike expressing majority support. Voters support for legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is even more strongly bipartisan, with super-majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents endorsing reform.

As many federal politicians approach the upcoming midterm elections, and as state lawmakers look ahead to their 2019 legislative sessions, they ought to keep in mind the simple fact that marijuana legalization likely remains far more popular with their constituents than they are - and they ought to legislate accordingly.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He is the co-author of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? and the author of the book, The Citizen's Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws.