New poll shows 55 percent support for pot legalization in Maine

A new Critical Insights tracking poll has found that more than half of Mainers support legalizing recreational marijuana.

According to data from the Marijuana Policy Project, which is backing a legalization referendum on this year’s November ballot, 55 percent of respondents said they support legalizing marijuana compared with 41 percent who said they were leaning or definitely against legalization.

The poll asked “Do you favor a law allowing marijuana to be legalized, taxed and regulated for use by adults 21 and older?”

The second question was “regardless of how you feel about this specific initiative, do you favor or oppose taxing, regulating and legalizing marijuana for adults?”

This time the split was 59 percent in favor, 35 percent against.

The third question put respondents on the spot: “This is a completely confidential survey and we need to ask some questions to make sure that everyone’s views are reflected. As you may know, many people from all walks of life use marijuana. Have you ever used marijuana in your life for recreational use?”

— No, 53 percent

— Yes, 43 percent

— Don’t know, 4 percent.

The poll surveyed 610 people who said they were registered and likely voters — 315 via telephone and 295 online — between March 4 and 10.

The results echoed another poll conducted during roughly the same time in early March by the Maine People’s Resource Center. That poll, the results of which were released last month, found 54 percent in favor of legalization and 42 percent against.

David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project and manager of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said the polls show increasing support for legalization, which he said has been barely above 50 percent in recent years.

“We had just barely majority support and now we’re starting to pull away in double digits,” he said.

Boyer, who said his group paid for its three questions on the poll, was unsure how much other groups would spend on the initiative but that his group will have a budget “in the six figures” that will buy social media advertising and a television blitz for weeks prior to the vote.

Scott Gagnon of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which leads the opposition to legalization, said he is skeptical of any poll funded by proponents of the initiative. Gagnon is also a blogger for the Bangor Daily News.

“The fact that the campaign has received wall-to-wall media coverage and is only at 55 percent in a poll they commissioned means their campaign still has an uphill battle,” wrote Gagnon in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News. “I believe you will see just how soft that support is once our coalition ramps up and gets out to share the true risks and costs of legalization with Mainers all around the state.”

The legalization referendum, which was forced by a citizen initiative, was initially ruled invalid by the Secretary of State’s office in early March. It was revived after a Maine Superior Court judge overturned the ruling last month. Boyer said he hopes the publicity was good for the question.

“We need to make it clear to voters that we know we are on the ballot,” said Boyer. “We feel good to just have the last target be voting day in November.”



Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.