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With Vote To Legalize On The Horizon, Recreational Marijuana Approval Remains High, Poll Finds

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two-thirds of Marylanders support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, according to the latest Goucher College poll released Tuesday.

Support for the legalization of cannabis is at its highest point since Goucher College starting polling around marijuana in October 2013.

Although a majority of those polled supported legalization, there was some clear division in support along party lines.

Among Democrats, 77% support while 18% percent oppose it.

More Republicans are supporting legalizing marijuana use than ever before, with 50% of those polled supporting the move and 47% opposing it.

Among independents, 60% support it and 34% oppose it.

Only 57% of residents supported legalizing recreational use of marijuana two years ago.

"This has been a trend in the making that's been coming for a long time," said Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College.

Kromer said the numbers will likely continue to trend toward legalization.

"I suspect support for legalization will continue to increase over the next few years," she said.Outside Culta dispensary on Key Highway Monday, a stream of cannabis users welcomed the support and push for a ballot initiative."Yeah, that's definitely surprising. It's good news, as well," Dominique Moore said. "There's a tax benefit when it comes to the state."

In just four years, the opposition has eroded and support has risen. In 2017, more than a third of Marylanders opposed legalization while 58% supported it.

"Over time, obviously, public opinion has shifted across the country and I'd say pretty dramatically," State Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery County) said.

The Maryland General Assembly is taking up a pair of legalization bills this session, both of which would essentially legalize marijuana for those aged 21 and older.House Bill 1, a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for those 21+, passed its third reading last month and is in the state's Senate Finance Committee now.

"Everybody seems to not have a problem with medical marijuana, so we might as well just make it recreational, that way everybody can get it," Tony Lobin said.Moore hopes voters do their research before a potential ballot question in November."Read up on it first. Don't just make your decision based on the past," Moore said.

Feldman said there's already an illegal market surrounding marijuana, so "we may as well tax and regulate it and get the money to use it for all the good stuff our state could use it for."

If legalized, Feldman said he expects $300 million in new revenue.

"There's a lot of money involved here and I think that's the fuel for the steam engine," Sen. Benjamin Kramer, another Montgomery County Democrat, said.

Other lawmakers aren't sold on the idea. Some are concerned about the unintended consequences that could come with legalization as well as how it would be regulated.

"It's not a good thing for more people to smoke marijuana," Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll County) said.

Sen. Malcolm Augustine, a Prince George's County Democrat, expressed concerns about the public health impacts of legalization.

Neighboring Virginia passed a legalization bill this month. Other states' actions can play a big role in public opinion, Kromer said.

"Just like when Maryland decided to legalize gambling, those surrounding states' gambling policies were certainly part of that," she said.

WJZ has asked Gov. Larry Hogan's office for his position on legalization three times in the past month; he has remained quiet on the issue.

The Goucher College Poll surveyed 725 Maryland adults between Feb. 23 through Feb 28. The poll has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percent.

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