Nearly six in ten Louisiana voters support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll from the University of New Orleans (UNO).
The survey, released on Tuesday, found that 58 percent of registered voters in the state are in favor of ending prohibition, with 30 percent opposed and 12 percent saying they’re unsure. It’s one of the latest examples of how the reform proposal has gained traction among the public even in traditionally conservative states where legislatures have declined to act.
Louisiana has taken some modest steps to loosen its cannabis policies in recent years, and that’s coincided with what UNO calls a “dramatic change” in public opinion toward legalization. Most voters in the state opposed the policy change until 2021, the poll shows.
Now there’s a clear pro-legalization majority—though the survey did identify common demographic trends on the issue, with younger people and Democrats significantly more likely to support ending cannabis criminalization.
Democratic voters in the state back legalization 56-32 percent, for example, while Republicans are more evenly divided at 42-40 percent. People who don’t identify with either major party favor legalization at the highest level, 79-15 percent.
With respect to age, 83 percent of those 18-34 said they back legalization, compared to just 30 percent for those 65 and older.
One of the more interesting findings from the poll is that there’s majority support for legalization in each of Louisiana’s six congressional districts, ranging from 50 to 64 percent.
The survey involved interviews with 325 registered voters in Louisiana from March 28-April 1. The margin of error is +/-5.4 percentage points.
Respondents weren’t asked about the specifics of what kind of legal cannabis system they’d be inclined to support. Rather, pollsters asked simply: “Do you favor of oppose the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Louisiana?”
While legalization has yet to be enacted in the Pelican State, Gov. John Bell Edwards (D) did sign a bill last year to decriminalize possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis by making it punishable by a $100 fine without jail time. That policy went into effect last August.
This session, a bill to revise the law to make it so people under 18 could face incarceration over low-level possession has advanced, but it’s yet to be enacted.
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Edwards also signed a bill last year to allow patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally to smoke whole-plant marijuana flower.
The governor also previously said that he does think that Louisiana will inevitably legalize cannabis for adult use at some point, but he doesn’t believe it will happen before his term expires in 2024.
An effort in the legislature to pass a bill to legalize recreational cannabis stalled in the House last session after the chamber failed to pass a complementary measure on taxing adult-use marijuana.
Last year, Edwards also said that he had “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.
In 2020, the Louisiana legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law. The governor signed that into law.
A separate poll released last year similarly demonstrated strong voter support for marijuana legalization, even in conservative stronghold districts.
Two other previous polls—including one personally commissioned by a top Republican lawmaker—have found that a majority of voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.