Poll Finds Majority Support for Legal Marijuana in Three Swing States

Voters are especially tolerant of medical use.


Jacob Sullum

According to a new Quinnipiac University Poll, a large majority of voters in three swing states—Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—say marijuana should be legal for medical purposes, while considerably smaller majorities say recreational use also should be legal. In Florida and Ohio, 84 percent of respondents said adults should be allowed to "use marijuana for medical purposes if their doctor prescribes it," as did 88 percent of Pennsylvanians. 

When it comes to whether adults should be allowed to "possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use," support is weaker: 55 percent in Florida, 52 percent in Ohio, and 51 percent in Pennsylvania. Still, notes Washington Post blogger Christoper Ingraham, "marijuana legalization is more popular than any potential 2016 presidential contender" in those three states.

Although voter approval of medical marijuana looks like a sure thing, that is not necessarily the case. Quinnipiac surveys put Florida voters' support for medical marijuana above 80 percent in 2013 and 2014. But in November a ballot initiative that would have legalized medical use fell two points short of the 60 percent supermajority required for a constitutional amendment.

Given the potential for such slippage, the Ohio result does not seem to bode very well for the marijuana legalization initiative that is expected to appear on that state's 2015 ballot. The Marijuana Legalization Amendment sponsored by Responsible Ohio would legalize commercial production and distribution as well as possession. "Our internal polling has definitely shown that there's very strong support for full legalization," says Responsible Ohio spokeswoman Lydia Bolander, "and we're confident that that number's only going to continue to grow between now and November." Unlike in Florida, a simple majority is enough to approve constitutional amendments in Ohio.