Poll: Most residents OK with use of medical marijuana

February 14, 2007

Steve Terrell, Santa Fe New Mexican

An overwhelming majority of New Mexicans support the idea of allowing people with serious medical conditions to smoke marijuana to ease symptoms, according to a poll commissioned by a drug-reform group lobbying for a medical marijuana bill in the Legislature.

The poll, conducted by the SJC Research of Washington, D.C., also showed that a plurality of voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported medical marijuana while a third would not be affected by a candidate’s stance on the issue.

Reena Szczepanski of the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance, which commissioned the poll, said the findings show that legislators need not fear voting for Senate Bill 238, which recently passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and is moving through the House.

Gov. Bill Richardson has endorsed the bill.

The poll results are consistent with a 2002 poll conducted for The New Mexican and KOB-TV by the Mason-Dixon polling company of Washington, D.C. That poll showed 72 percent of respondents said they would favor “legalizing marijuana use by those who have serious medical conditions, to alleviate pain and other symptoms.” Only 20 percent in that poll opposed the idea, while 8 percent were undecided.

The new poll asked: “Do you support or oppose making marijuana available to seriously ill or terminal patients in order to reduce the pain and suffering of illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and glaucoma?”

Fifty percent said they “strongly supported” the proposal. Another 25 percent said they “somewhat” supported it. Eight percent said they “somewhat” opposed the idea, while 11 percent were “strongly” opposed. The remainder were undecided.

Another question asked: “If a candidate for elected office in New Mexico voted to allow seriously ill patients access to marijuana for medical purposes with a medical provider’s recommendation, would you be more likely to vote for that candidate, less likely to vote for that candidate, or would that not make any difference to you?”

Forty-two percent said more likely, while 17 percent said less likely. Thirty-three percent said “no difference,” while another 8 percent said they didn’t know.

When asked, “If a close friend or family member was suffering from a condition that could be eased by marijuana, would you consider breaking the current law to obtain the drug for him or her?” only 32 percent said they would consider breaking the law. Forty-three percent said they wouldn’t break the law.

Szczepanski said this shows the need for a bill like SB 238 to become law — though she admitted some respondents might have been reluctant to tell a stranger on the telephone they would break the law.

The poll is based on interviews with 800 adults over the age of 18 who say they always or usually vote in general elections. The poll was conducted between Jan. 29 and Feb. 1. The margin of error is 3.5 percent.

SJC owner Stephen Clermont has done polling work for the New Mexico Democratic Party and Santa Fe Mayor David Coss’ 2006 campaign.

SB 238 is scheduled for a hearing before the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee on Feb. 27.

Contact Steve Terrell at 986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexican.com.



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