UNL Survey Shows ‘Overwhelming’ Support for Medical Marijuana Legalization | Regional government

As signatures continue to be collected on a pair of initiative petitions to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska, a survey by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln estimates that 83% of Nebraskans supported the idea in 2020 and 2021.

Results from Nebraska’s annual Social Indicators Survey, published May 17 in the Journal of Drug Issues, align with internal Nebraskas-led polls for medical marijuana that show 80% support for legalization. medical cannabis in the state.

Patrick Habecker, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

JUSTIN WAN, Journal Star file photo

The survey results also show that support for the legalization of recreational marijuana increases from about 40% in 2020 to 46% in 2021, according to the research team.

Patrick Habecker, assistant research professor of sociology and co-author of the paper with psychology professor Rick Bevins, said the survey was created during the coronavirus pandemic, when researchers working together at the Center for Research on rural drug addiction had to shift gears.

“During COVID, we had to pause interviews with people who use drugs in Nebraska, so we saw this as a chance to continue the center’s mission,” Habecker said. “It’s a big problem in the state, even though Nebraska is one of the few states without medical or recreational marijuana.”

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Nebraska first banned cannabis in 1927 when Representative Thomas Axtell of North Platte introduced HR74, prohibiting the use or possession of what the media called “hashish” or “mariguana.”

Congress enacted its own ban in 1937, but in recent years states have gradually begun to lift their bans on the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, either through legislation or through citizen petitions.

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A petition to legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska gained the number of signatures needed to present it to voters in the 2020 general election, but was later struck out of the ballot by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled it violated the single subject rule.

Two petitions, which would compel the Legislative Assembly to enact laws protecting doctors and patients, as well as private entities that supply and distribute cannabis, are now in circulation.

Habecker said the UNL research team sought to gauge Nebraskans’ opinions on legalizing recreational and medical marijuana, medical marijuana only, or keeping both illegal as part of the survey. annual mailed to a randomly selected group of Nebraskanians ages 19 and older in each of the past two years.

In total, the survey was sent to 8,000 addresses in Nebraska evenly distributed across the state’s six behavioral health regions, as well as Lincoln and Omaha.

More than a quarter of the surveys (27.7%) were returned. The average age of the respondents was 51 years old, with a quasi-separation between men and women. The majority (90%) of respondents were white — higher than the 2019 estimate that 78.2% of Nebraskans are white.

The results show widespread and uniform support for the legalization of medical marijuana only across all regions of the state, the two major political parties, ages and genders, according to the results.

In just two of the eight geographies — the South Central (22%) and Southwest (25.9%) regions — support for keeping marijuana illegal in all its forms reached 20%, Habecker said. .

“Recreational marijuana is where you start to see more differences appear by region, as well as by political party,” he said.

While 22.4% of Republicans said they supported keeping marijuana illegal, 45.2% said they would support legalizing medical marijuana, and 32.4% said they supported the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical purposes.

The result comes despite the state’s top Republicans, including Gov. Pete Ricketts, leading the campaign against legalization.

For Democrats, just 9.9% favored keeping marijuana banned, while 40.9% supported only medical marijuana and 49.2% said they supported full legalization, according to the results. .

Respondents who identified as politically independent were more evenly split, with 45.9% indicating they supported the legalization of medical marijuana only and 42.4% saying they supported the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana.

Attitudes toward legalization change with age, with younger Nebraskans more likely to support full legalization than older residents. Less than a third of respondents aged 69 and over said they supported recreational use.

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Nebraskans who said they lived on a farm or in the countryside were also less likely to support recreational marijuana than those who lived in a city or town. Men were also more likely than women to support full legalization.

Habecker said the survey also tries to capture how the stigma of marijuana affects respondents’ opinions, an issue he says is “grossly under-researched in political opinions.”

“How people perceive those who use a drug is an important consideration, especially when people have no direct experience with a substance,” Habecker and Bevins wrote in the article.

As participants report higher levels of stigma toward marijuana users, they are less likely to support either option, according to the study, while the reverse was true for those with higher levels. high levels of stigma towards people who use cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids or heroin.

“Few studies of political support for legalization consider stigma in general, but we demonstrate that these measures are important to include and work differently by substance,” the paper concludes.

Habecker said one of the weaknesses of the UNL survey was the lack of questions about whether or not respondents were likely to vote, or were regular voters, to gauge support for legalization in the urns.

Legislative efforts to lift the ban on medical marijuana failed in 2019 and 2021, and a potential investigative measure over the 2020 initiative’s election results failed when it was withdrawn from the ballot, wrote the researchers.

“That sets the stage for a ballot initiative in 2022,” Habecker and Bevins wrote. “Despite our estimate of overwhelming public support for medical marijuana, the 2022 election will test how well public opinion translates into voting behavior in Nebraska.”

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Contact the writer at 402-473-7120 or [email protected]

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS

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