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Floridians overwhelmingly support legalizing recreational marijuana, top pollster finds

The 67 percent favorability finding in the poll is a massive win for legalization proponents.

Floridians overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use, according to a new survey conducted by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, one of the most respected public research firms in the nation.

The survey found two-thirds of likely Florida voters polled favor legalizing the use of marijuana for adults age 21 or over.

Of those, 45 percent said they strongly favored legalization, and 22 percent said they somewhat favored. Only 29 percent opposed legalization.

The 67 percent favorability finding in the poll is a massive win for legalization proponents. It sets a solid ground for work on three proposed amendments seeking ballot inclusion that all would require 60 percent of the vote to be approved.

Messaging in favor of legalization is also polling with supermajority support. The three most potent messages tested in the poll address potential voter concerns while also touting the benefits of legalization.

The top polling message points out that the amendment would require strict labeling on marijuana products as well as childproof packaging and a ban on advertising that might appear to target children. Asked about that message, 70 percent of respondents said they were more likely to support the amendment. Among those, 50 percent indicated they would be much more likely; 20 percent said they would be somewhat more likely to vote in favor of legalization.

In another messaging strategy, respondents were told about the burden placed on law enforcement by enforcing marijuana laws, including that legalization “allows the courts and police to focus more time on serious crimes such as gang activity, violent crimes, robbery and sexual predators.”

Asked about that messaging, 67 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to support legalization.

The third messaging strategy received 63 percent. It focused on the impacts of legalization on revenue generation that could support state priorities like education, health care and public safety.

Meanwhile, potential opposing strategies fell flat among respondents.

Only 46 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to oppose legalization when told that “studies have shown that marijuana use by those under the age of 25 can impair brain development and function.” That talking point was the most successful among opposition strategies tested. Two others — that legalization would make marijuana more accessible to children and that it is a gateway drug — polled with 43 percent and 41 percent of respondents saying they would be less likely to support the measure.

The difference in messaging support shows opposition efforts that have been employed in the past might not be effective.

The poll was conducted among 800 likely 2020 general election voters in Florida from July 16-18. Calls were split 50/50 between landline and cellphone respondents. The margin of error in the poll is 3.46 percent.

The Make it Legal Florida Committee, which is chaired by MedMen Director of Government Affairs for the Southeast region Nick Hansen, sponsored the poll.

The committee filed amendment language this week that would legalize recreational marijuana use among adults 21 and older and allow medical marijuana dispensaries to distribute the drug as long is it was contained in childproof packaging and not marketed to children. The proposed amendment would apply to the possession, display, and transport of marijuana in quantities up to 2.5 ounces and would also apply to marijuana accessories.

The Make it Legal Florida amendment is one of three proposals for the 2020 ballot seeking to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The groups have filed two others.

The activist-backed group Regulate Florida, whose committee to raise funds is registered as Sensible Florida, recently received enough petitions to qualify for judicial review, which is necessary before making the ballot. To do that, groups must obtain 76,632 certified petition signatures. To make the ballot, groups have to have 766,200 certified signatures. Sensible Florida’s amendment would regulate recreational marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Another group, Floridians for Freedom, is proposing an amendment that would deregulate marijuana, providing only the stipulation that adults could not sell the drug to minors.

Hansen told Florida Politics his group’s amendment is aimed at passing Supreme Court review and reaching enough voters to surpass the 60 percent threshold for voter approval on the 2020 ballot. He said including language that regulates recreational use similarly to the way medical marijuana is regulated helps accomplish that. He’s also encouraged by the polling numbers on messaging showing voters respond positively to the amendment’s language requiring childproof packaging and banning marketing geared toward children.

The Make it Legal Florida-sponsored poll supports a recent Quinnipiac University poll that also showed strong support for legalization. That poll, conducted in June, showed 65 percent support.

 

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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