Georgia voters want marijuana legalized, AJC poll shows

Survey: Allow marijuana for recreational and medical use
A person walks past The Pot Shop in Atlanta. In a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, about 53% of Georgia registered voters supported legalizing recreational use of marijuana. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

A person walks past The Pot Shop in Atlanta. In a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, about 53% of Georgia registered voters supported legalizing recreational use of marijuana. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Marijuana use is more acceptable than ever in Georgia, with a majority of residents saying it should be made legal for both medical and recreational purposes, according to respondents in a poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

About 53% of Georgians surveyed said marijuana should be legal for adults, a high point from previous AJC polls. By comparison, 46% of poll respondents in 2017 said marijuana should be legalized for any purpose.

The poll indicates that attitudes about marijuana have changed eight years after Georgia passed a law allowing patients with an approved medical condition to consume it. Dispensaries could finally open in Georgia as soon as this spring.

Medicinal marijuana is even more popular than recreational use, according to the poll. An additional 23% of respondents said medical marijuana should be legal.

“Make it legal. People are doing it anyway, so why have a penalty attached to it?” said Patricia Harris of Newnan, a retiree from the health care industry who took part in the AJC poll. “In so many states now it’s legal, not just for medical purposes.”

The AJC conducted the survey to find out the preferences of Georgia voters on a variety of issues as legislators are meeting at the state Capitol to consider new laws.

The AJC’s poll included 860 registered Georgia voters and was conducted Jan. 9-20 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points.

Some poll respondents such as Jon Lippold of Marietta were more reluctant to embrace full marijuana legalization.

Lippold, who works in information technology management, said he supports allowing marijuana consumption for people with legitimate medical issues, but it could be abused if anyone were allowed to use it.

“My concern is if you legalize it, where does it go? If it’s fully legal, how are they going to control and monitor it among bus drivers or if pilots start using marijuana?” Lippold asked.

Georgia lawmakers in the majority-Republican General Assembly have shown little appetite to expand marijuana beyond medicinal use. No bills for recreational marijuana have been introduced by legislators from either political party so far this year, and previous proposals didn’t advance.

Meanwhile, registered patients are closer than ever to being able to buy the drug that state law has permitted them to consume since 2015.

Two companies have been awarded licenses to produce and sell low THC oil to the state’s 25,000-plus patients and 18,000 caregivers. Low THC oil is allowed for patients suffering from several approved illnesses including severe seizures, Parkinson’s disease and terminal cancers.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve rules for inspections and distribution, a key step before the product can go on the market.

The AJC poll showed just 7% of Georgians surveyed said marijuana should be entirely illegal. About 15% of respondents said marijuana should be decriminalized and treated like a traffic ticket, but not legalized outright.

Conservatives were less likely to embrace marijuana than liberals and moderates.

The poll showed that 37% of conservatives back legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use, compared with 77% of people who identified themselves as liberals and 58% of moderates.

Substantial majorities of Georgians support President Joe Biden’s pardons of people convicted on federal charges of simple marijuana possession. About 79% of poll respondents either strongly or somewhat approved of the marijuana pardons, while 15% opposed it. The rest said they didn’t know.

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