By Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune
Texans are more open to legalizing marijuana — and not just for medical use — according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Opposition to legal marijuana is dropping in Texas, with fewer than one in five respondents to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll saying they are against legalization in any form.
Support for marijuana only for medical use has dropped over the last two years, but support for legalization for private use — both in small amounts or in amounts of any size — has grown since the pollsters asked in February 2015.
“We’ve seen this movie before on a couple of social issues,” said Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. He thinks the changes in Texas have more to do with shifting attitudes than with news of legalization in other states. “There’s a little bit of normalization. I don’t think this is a states-as-laboratories issue. Voters don’t care about that kind of stuff.”
Overall, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana for some use; 53 percent would go beyond legal medical marijuana to allow possession for any use, the poll found. Two years ago, 24 percent of Texans said no amount of marijuana should be legal for any use and another 34 percent said it should be allowed only for medical use.
Legal pot is more popular with Democrats than Republicans, with men than with women, and with younger Texans more than older ones. All of those subgroups support legalization of marijuana for medical or nonmedical use. Among Democrats, 62 percent would legalize pot in some amount for nonmedical use, while only 41 percent of Republicans agreed. Sixty percent of men would support legalization of non-medical marijuana, compared with 48 percent of women. Among 18-44 year olds, 55 percent would approve of non-medical marijuana and 51 percent of 45 to 64-year-olds agreed. But only 38 percent of Texans 65 and older agreed.
“The number of people who want to keep marijuana completely illegal decreased by seven points,” said poll co-director Jim Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “The commensurate shift is in Republicans saying small amounts should be legal, and those who said any amount should be legal increased by six points.
“The other thing that may be going on here is the possible disappearance of the medium ground,” he said. “It reminds me of what happened with gay marriage, where people often chose the civil union option. A similar thing is happening with medical marijuana as a kind of way station.