While the Iowa Legislature and Gov. Kim Reynolds debate the finer points of Iowa’s medical marijuana laws, a majority of Iowans say they want its medical usages expanded and marijuana to be legalized for recreational use, the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.
It’s the first time the poll has shown a majority, 53%, of Iowans supporting recreational marijuana. Support has ticked up steadily since Selzer & Co., which conducts the Iowa Poll, started asking about it in February 2013. In that poll, only 29% of Iowans supported legalizing recreational marijuana.
Since then, a dozen states, including neighboring Illinois, have legalized recreational use of marijuana. The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature has not debated a similar measure this year.
owans have been polled eight times since 2013 about whether they favor or oppose legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. In March 2020, 53% said they favor such a legislative initiative, while 41% said they oppose it.
According to the poll, there is an age divide in whether Iowans believe marijuana should be legalized. Seventy-five percent of people younger than 35 support legalizing recreational marijuana, and 56% of people aged 35 to 54 support legalizing it. For people 55 and older, support of legalized recreational marijuana drops to 34%. Men and women support legalization at about the same clip, 54% and 53%, respectively.
Democrats (67%), political independents (58%), people who don’t identify with a religion (79%) and who have an income of less than $70,000 a year (59%) make up the backbone of support. A majority of Catholics (53%) also support it, as do a majority of people who live in cities (60%), suburbs (58%) and towns (53%).
Support drops below a majority among rural Iowans (44%) and Protestants (42%), while self-described evangelicals (40%) and Republicans (37%) support it at an even lower rate.
The Iowa Poll is based on a sample of 800 Iowa adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Iowans were asked: “Here are some specific issues that have been debated in the Iowa Legislature this year. For each, please tell me if you favor or oppose the initiative.”
A large majority of Iowans, 81%, support expanding the state’s medical-marijuana program to include more diseases and conditions. Only 13% of Iowans oppose expanding the program.
The Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday night allowing patients up to 4.5 grams of THC in a 90-day period. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The bill would also expand the list of conditions that qualify for Iowa’s medical marijuana program to include chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and “severe, intractable autism with self-injurious or aggressive behaviors.” It still needs to pass the Senate before going to the governor for final approval.
Latonia Cosby, 51, of Waterloo supports both expanding the medical-marijuana program and legalizing recreational marijuana. Cosby doesn’t personally use the drug — she experimented as a teen and didn’t find its effects appealing — but has seen its benefits in other people.
“You’re wasting every state in the nation’s tax dollars locking people up for marijuana,” she said. “It’s a waste of money, and has been a waste of money for many, many, many years.”
Further, she believes it could be a valuable source of stress relief, especially in what she characterized as particularly stressful times.
There are also enough people who still use marijuana, despite it being illegal in Iowa and under federal law, either to relax or help cope with other issues. Cosby said she thinks recreational legalization would bring that use out of the shadows and help destigmatize it. She heaped praise on younger generations, generally, but also for leading this shift.
“They’re very smart, period,” she said, noting their greater interest in philanthropy and science and feeling of connectivity to the broader world. “They’re going to be alright, and they’re going to get things back to nature.”
Linda Vaudt, 68, of Whittemore supports expanding the medical-marijuana program but worried about legalizing recreational marijuana. She works for a nonprofit that helps some of society’s most vulnerable, and said “marijuana really does help their pain.”
But she said she also knows people “who just want to sit and smoke it all day and not go to work.” Vaudt said she has seen substance abuse issues start with marijuana use and end with more destructive substances, such as methamphetamine, and result in prison time. Ideally, manufacturers would find a sweet spot where the medical benefits of marijuana are available without the psychoactive effects, she said.
“I don’t believe in using it to get high. I’m totally against that,” Vaudt said. “But if they can use it to help with seizures or stuff like that, I would like to be able to see them get (THC) out of there.”
The Iowa Poll, conducted March 2-5, 2020, for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 800 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cellphone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex, and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent census data.
Questions based on the sample of 800 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 or 3.8 percentage points, respectively. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.
Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to the Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.
Via: Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at [email protected]
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