According to a new poll commissioned by the Boston Herald, voters in Massachusetts approve of marijuana legalization, but they have doubts about whether officials in the state will be able to implement it properly.
The poll was conducted earlier this month and 600 registered voters in the state participated. Among respondents, 63% said they support marijuana legalization while only 34% said they are opposed. Some 95% of those who voted for legalization in 2016 said they would vote for it again.
Problems arose when voters were asked if they trusted state officials to implement the new legalization law, with 42% saying they aren’t confident the state can “safely and fairly” regulate legal sales. Only 21% were “extremely” or “very” confident in the state’s ability to get the job done.
“There’s a genuine lack of confidence,” said Matt Hayes, president and CEO of the Bernett Group, the firm that conducted the poll. “Voters are skeptical about how fairly and safely state government will perform when marijuana becomes publicly available.”
Many voters – 46% to be exact – are worried that politics will play a role in the implementation of the legalization measure, especially since 4 of the 5 people appointed to the new Cannabis Control Commission were against the legalization measure passed last year.
Add to that the fact that the state legislature has delayed and altered the original measure quite a bit, and you begin to see the reason voters don’t trust officials to implement the law in a fair manner. In fact, many of those polled were decidedly against some of the changes made by the legislature, with 82% saying that voters in cities and towns should be able to decide whether marijuana sales are allowed locally; that was the case in the original measure, but now elected officials in those cities and towns will decide instead. The legislature also raised taxes on recreational marijuana to 20%, which 43% of poll respondents feel is too high.
Other interesting numbers from the poll include the 61% who don’t buy the marijuana “gateway theory”, and the 27% who think cannabis legalization will lead to an increase in crime.
As I have been saying for a while now, the biggest impediment to legalization is no longer prohibitionists, but the very government officials charged with implementing legalization laws. Many of them inherently believe that they know much more than voters, so it’s no problem if they tweak a little here and delay a little there and completely change this part over here while adding rules and restrictions that no one asked for.