Majority of Maryland Republicans Support Cannabis Legalization, Goucher Poll Finds

Two-thirds of Marylanders support legalizing cannabis for adult-use—including a majority of Republicans—according to a recent Goucher College Poll. 

66 percent of Maryland residents support legalizing cannabis for adult-use while 29 percent are in opposition. Support for cannabis legalization among Maryland residents has grown since 2019 when the Goucher Poll found 57 percent of residents supported adult-use legalization while 37 percent opposed. In 2015, only 52 percent of Maryland residents supported legalization.

Most significantly, the Goucher poll demonstrated majority support for adult-use legalization among Republicans for the first time with 50 percent in favor and 37 percent in opposition. In 2015, only 42 percent of Republicans supported cannabis legalization while 54 percent opposed. 

Maryland residents’ increasing support for cannabis legalization follows national trends; a February 2021 survey by Emerson College demonstrated 61 percent of respondents think legalizing cannabis for adult-use is a good idea, with 46 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats in support. 

Mileah Kromer, the director of the Sarah T. Field Hughes Political Center at Goucher College, cited age as a major factor in Republican support for cannabis legalization. 

“Millennial Republicans are more supportive of legalization of recreational cannabis compared to their baby boomer counterparts,” Kromer explained. “As these demographics age up and become a greater share of the voting population, you’re going to see polls reflect that, and eventually public policy.” 

The poll results demonstrated this generational gap with 79 and 74 percent of residents between ages 18-35 and 35-54, respectively, in support of cannabis legalization. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of residents older than 55 support cannabis legalization, though this age group demonstrated the largest increase in cannabis use in recent years. Growing cannabis use among older Americans is likely a result of a weakening stigma surrounding cannabis, expanding medicinal cannabis programs, and increasing popularization of cannabis as a safer alternative to opioids and other prescription medications. 

Unsurprisingly, Democrats are overwhelmingly in support of cannabis legalization at 77 percent in favor which is a 20 percent increase from 2015 when only 57 percent of Democrats supported legalization. 

Kromer said legalization of cannabis for adult-use in Maryland is no longer a question of “if” but “when” as Virginia and New Jersey recently passed their own legalization bills, placing even more economic pressure on Maryland lawmakers to follow suit. If Maryland residents can drive to New Jersey or Virginia to purchase cannabis legally, they will contribute to the tax revenue of neighboring states using money that could be spent and taxed in Maryland. 

Additionally, this overwhelming display of public support for cannabis legalization illustrates to lawmakers that their own opposition to cannabis legalization would require directly contradicting the will of their constituents. 

The Maryland General Assembly is considering two cannabis legalization bills this legislative session, HB 32 sponsored by Del. Jazz Lewis and SB 708 sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman. Both pieces of legislation direct most of the tax revenue from legal cannabis sales in Maryland to Black and Brown communities who were disproportionately harmed by racist enforcement of cannabis law. 

“Maryland is working on policing and criminal justice issues that directly affect racial inequities, and marijuana legalization is part of that larger conversation,” Kromer said. 

74 percent of Black Marylanders support cannabis legalization compared to only 63 percent of white Marylanders, a disparity that likely reflects Black residents’ heightened awareness of how police use cannabis law to target their communities. 

The Goucher College Poll is fully funded by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Political Center and does not accept funding from external sources.

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