A new statewide poll suggests Arizona voters aren’t ready to legalize recreational marijuana.
The sample of likely voters in next year’s election finds 35 percent would support a measure allowing personal use of the drug. By contrast, 48 percent of the 600 people questioned in the automated telephone poll said they were opposed, with the rest undecided.
That’s significant because Proposition 205, a legalization measure on the 2016 ballot, failed by just 3 percentage points.
Michael Noble, managing partner of the political consulting firm OH Predictive Strategies, which conducted the survey earlier this month, said the results are not a surprise.
His automated calls went only to those with landline phones. That, he said, skews the results a bit toward older voters who are more conservative.
But Noble said there’s another factor at work: The respondents were all people who said they intend to vote next year. In general, off-year elections — those without a presidential candidate on the ballot — tend to attract older and more conservative voters.
Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, agreed with Noble on the basic premise of why 2018 is a good year to stay off the ballot.
“The demographic groups that are least likely to support marijuana legalization ... are older Americans and people that are socially conservative,” he said.
“Those are groups that are much more heavily represented during midterm elections traditionally.”
He said similar initiatives have tended to fare “much worse” in these off-year elections.
“Presidential elections bring out a lot of younger voters who are much more comfortable with the idea of regulating marijuana like alcohol,” said Fox, whose group was behind the successful 2010 initiative to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.
Not everyone is convinced that pushing a legalization measure next year is an exercise in futility.
A group called Safer Arizona already started a drive to put the issue on the 2018 ballot. Organizers need 150,642 valid signatures by next July 5 to qualify.
David Wisniewski, the group’s executive director, said he’s not buying the contention about off-year elections.
“That’s just a fake argument to discourage people from trying,” he said.
Wisniewski pointed out that the state’s medical marijuana law was itself approved, albeit narrowly, in 2010, which was one of those off-year elections.
Anyway, he said, the controversy around President Trump should generate wider interest than normal in a midyear election.
But all that may be immaterial if voters don’t get the chance to weigh in next year.
Safer Arizona is trying to get on the ballot strictly with volunteers circulating its petitions.
“At the rate we’re going, it doesn’t look like we’re going to hit our goal,” Wisniewski said. “But we’re not giving up and we’re going to collect to the very last day, as of now.”