New poll: Mass. residents still down with legalization

FILE - This Sept. 11, 2018, file photo shows a marijuana plant at SLOgrown Genetics in the coastal mountain range of San Luis Obispo, Calif. When California voters broadly legalized marijuana in 2016, they were promised that part of the tax revenue from pot sales would be devoted to programs to teach youth how to avoid substance abuse and "prevent harm" from marijuana use. But more than a year after the start of sales, there's no money for those programs and looming questions about how they might operate in the future. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Richard Vogel/Associated Press/File

It’s been two years since nearly 54 percent of Massachusetts voters said “yes” to legalized cannabis. But how are people feeling about the whole thing these days?

Pretty good, it turns out. At least, according to a poll funded by former Question 4 campaigners Jim Borghesani and Will Luzier. They say their data show that a greater share of Massachusetts residents — 56 percent — now supports legalization than in 2016. Meanwhile, just 25 percent oppose legalization today.

“People are seeing that legality is not coming with all the problems that were predicted by the people who opposed it,” Borghesani said. “They’re not fearing it as much as they once did.”


Interestingly, the poll found a majority of residents, 55 percent, are in favor of the state allowing licensed social consumption venues, or pot-cafes, with only 28 percent disagreeing. Asked if they’d be comfortable with a marijuana cafe in their community, 51 percent said yes; 36 percent said no. About half of people polled agreed that pot bars would pose no greater danger than booze bars.

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That will give the Cannabis Control Commission something to chew on when it considers later this year whether to allow such businesses.

Now, we’re all about context here at TWIW, so it’s important to note the limitations of the telephone poll. For one thing, it was funded by advocates with a clear agenda. It also had a small sample size of just 294 people, and 5.7 percent margin of error. Borghesani insisted the poll was conducted by a reputable research firm, the Bernett Group, and used a valid, representative sample.

To some observers though, the poll was not particularly trustworthy.

“It’s a really low sample size,” said Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. “It’s a poll initiated by an advocate for the industry and designed to push or emphasize or underscore the points that they want to. … It’s not informative to the general public policy process.”


I don’t think the poll is utterly worthless, but it’s certainly worth taking with a grain of salt.

The survey also found:

— A wide divide among those with differing politics over whether they believed that black and Hispanic communities were disproportionately harmed by the war on drugs: 81 percent of liberals agreed, while a mere 39 percent of moderates and 26 percent of conservatives agreed.

— 64 percent would consider using medical marijuana to treat a symptom or illness, while 27 percent would not.

— 42 percent said local bans on legal marijuana sales will keep drug dealers in business, while 34 percent disagreed. Similarly, 42 percent agreed that it’s justifiable for local officials to ban legal marijuana businesses; 42 percent disagreed.


— 44 percent said the CCC should prevent towns from demanding more than 6 percent of gross sales from marijuana retail businesses; 24 percent disagreed.

— 32 percent said marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs such as opioids and heroin; 55 percent disagreed.

— 30 percent said the CCC is moving “at an acceptable pace” in licensing marijuana businesses; 30 percent disagreed.

— 55 percent said that marijuana intoxication affects driving skills in the same way that alcohol does; 21 percent disagreed.

Naomi Martin can be reached at