Support to legalize pot running high
New poll counters naysayers, finding 60 percent of Illinoisans back legal weed
By Ted Cox
A new poll finds support to legalize marijuana continues to run high across Illinois.
The poll, conducted among 802 registered voters over three days ending May 1, found 60 percent in favor of legalization, and just 34 percent opposed, with 6 percent saying they don’t know either way.
The poll specifically asked, “Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana, taxing it, and regulating it just like alcohol?” It added if the voter felt “strongly or somewhat” of that opinion. Some 41 percent felt strongly in favor of legalization, with an additional 19 percent somewhat in favor, while 27 percent were strongly opposed and 7 percent somewhat in opposition.
Pollsters Global Strategy Group said the findings were “consistent” with a poll conducted in March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. That poll of registered voters across the state found two-thirds of Illinoisans backed legalization.
Both polls found a majority in favor of legalization across all regions of the state. The new poll found 60 percent in favor in both Chicago and its collar counties, but with support even stronger in the Cook County suburbs, where 68 percent endorsed it. Even elsewhere in Illinois, 54 percent were in favor, 40 percent opposed.
The Simon poll earlier this spring found 75 percent of Chicagoans in favor, two-thirds of suburbanites, and 57 percent of those across the rest of the state, and also found support across all political affiliations, with 79 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents in favor, and even Republicans backing legalization by 49 to 48 percent.
“This may be one of those public policy shifts — like gay marriage — whose time comes fairly quickly,” said the institute’s Charlie Leonard, co-director of the poll.
Elements of the General Assembly are trying to slow it down, however, even though Gov. Pritzker has pegged legalization licensing for $170 million in revenue in his 2020 budget. State Rep. Marty Moylan of Des Plaines held a fearmongering news conference in the Capitol earlier this month in which he brought in law-enforcement officials, the NAACP, and Catholic leaders to raise worries about legalization.
Moylan said it would emphasize “profits over people” favoring “big corporations,” and he also criticized Senate Bill 7’s allowance for state residents to grow five plants of their own at home. Moylan charged, “They’re going to be growing it on the back porch and selling it on the front porch,” and he and Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp suggested it would leave the state prone to “pot houses” run by “drug cartels.”
In marked contrast, Dan Linn, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ Illinois chapter, has scoffed at that and insisted that it was key to passage and should even be expanded to allow growers to give weed to their friends the same way tomato growers do.
The poll was conducted for Think Big Illinois, a nonprofit affiliated with Gov. Pritzker.