The political landscape on marijuana policy has shifted rapidly toward legalization...

The political landscape on marijuana policy has shifted rapidly toward legalization in the past few years. Credit: Getty Images/Drew Angerer

Two out of every three New York State voters support letting adults possess marijuana legally and erasing existing criminal records for possession — and almost as many voters support the drug’s legal sale in their community, a new poll released Thursday shows.

The poll, by Quinnipiac University, showed that Long Island voters also support legalization, 57 percent to 37 percent, according to Mark Bouchard, the pollster's survey-operations manager.

Opinion on legalized marijuana possession is uniform — every surveyed racial, age, sex, political, and regional demographic is in favor — with 65 percent in favor statewide, 31 percent against, and the remainder unsure, according to poll analyst Mary Snow of Quinnipiac, which conducted the survey earlier this month.

“We’re seeing New Yorkers in support of legalization,” she said. “There are some concerns being expressed, for example, about potential increase in car accidents, but overall New Yorkers say they would be in favor of legalizing marijuana and also be OK with it sold in their communities.”

The poll, of 929 registered voters, was conducted from Jan. 16 to Jan. 21 on landlines and cellphones, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points overall, with bigger margins of error for the demographic subgroups. For example, the poll of Long Island voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 11 percentage points. 

The university surveyed the voters on several topics, including congestion pricing and a statewide ban on plastic bags.

The political landscape on marijuana policy has shifted rapidly toward legalization in the past few years, with proponents citing the disproportionate arrest rate of blacks and Hispanics for marijuana despite comparable use among whites. In addition to Colorado, marijuana has been legalized in at least eight states, including California, Washington and Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

Under a proposal made earlier this month by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — who as recently as 2017 opposed legalization and called marijuana “a gateway drug” to more dangerous substances — marijuana would be legalized across the state; jurisdictions with more than 100,000 would be able to opt out of allowing sales. The Town of North Hempstead on Jan. 8 banned the sale of recreational marijuana. 

According to the poll, suburbanites support legalization 59 percent to 34 percent, people in the city by 69 percent to 27 percent, and people upstate 64 percent to 32 percent. Among Democrats, support is 77 percent to 20 percent, and among Republicans, 52 percent to 44 percent.

In the spring of 2018, Snow said, the legalization question had 56 percent of Republicans opposed and 40 percent were in favor.

The question asked the voters about allowing possession of “small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” according to a summary of Quinnipiac's poll results.

Overall, the voters said they support allowing legalized sale, by 59 percent to 38 percent.

In the latest poll, the only surveyed demographics to oppose allowing sale in their communities were Republicans, 53 percent to 45 percent, and people older than 65, who oppose it 50 percent to 47 percent.

Long Island voters support legalized sale by 57 percent to 41 percent, according to Bouchard. 

Voters said they are concerned about a potential increase in car accidents as a result of legalization, with 58 percent to 40 percent voicing concern.

Voters in New York City were the least likely of the regional demographics to be concerned: 50 percent concerned to 47 percent not concerned, with voters in the suburbs concerned 65 percent to 33 percent and upstate 62 percent to 37 percent.

“One would assume concerns are higher in the suburbs and upstate because people rely on cars more, right?” Snow said. “It’s a bigger concern when you’re using your car all the time.”

Research sponsored by the auto insurance industry-backed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Highway Loss Data Institute concluded last year that crashes are up as much as 6 percent in Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State, compared with neighboring states that haven't legalized recreational marijuana. The study did not establish causation, institute spokesman Russ Rader told Newsday. But in a July 2017 publication, "Marijuana-Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found there is no significant increased risk of crashes associated with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana.

The poll also questioned voters about a statewide ban on disposable plastic bags, which Cuomo proposed to curb pollution; environmentalists have sought the ban for years unsuccessfully in New York and a related effort by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council was killed by Albany. The poll showed voters were divided on the latest proposal, 48 percent in favor to 47 percent, within the margin of sampling error. Suffolk County has a 5-cent fee for bags that went into effect last year.

On congestion pricing — the charging of a fee for vehicles entering the most congested parts of Manhattan, with the money used to improve city public transit — voters were split 45 percent in favor to 44 percent against, within the margin of error. City voters back the plan 54 percent to 42 percent and suburban voters are against 40 percent to 55 percent. When the same question was polled in February by Quinnipiac, 49 percent opposed and 43 percent supported.  

A congestion-pricing plan by then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg was killed by Albany in 2008. In 2017, Cuomo called congestion pricing one “whose time has come,” but he didn’t enact it. Cuomo again proposed it this year.

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