FARGO — North Dakotans seem to be in a mellow mood in their relative acceptance of medical marijuana, but ardently oppose allowing recreational pot use, a new poll shows.
A plurality of 47 percent of poll respondents supports the legalization of medical marijuana, with 41 percent opposed and 9 percent neutral, according to a poll commissioned by Forum Communications Co. and conducted by the University of North Dakota College of Business and Public Administration.
But more than two-thirds – 68 percent — opposed legalizing recreational marijuana use in North Dakota, while 24 percent supported recreational pot use, the poll found.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent, with 95 percent confidence, and is based on landline and cellphone interviews of 505 randomly selected North Dakotans 18 and older who said they were likely to vote. The surveys were conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2.
Interestingly, the percentages of North Dakotans who strongly favor or strongly oppose legalizing medical marijuana are roughly equal: 33 percent were strongly in support, while 35 percent were strongly opposed.
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Robert Wood, an associate professor of political science and poll analyst at UND, said North Dakotans appear leery in their acceptance of social change and what could result.
“People basically are afraid of change,” he said. “Uncertainty kind of troubles people.”
Age groups held widely divergent views of medical marijuana, with the greatest support coming from younger respondents, and the strongest opposition coming from older brackets.
Among those 18 to 30, 50 percent strongly supported medical marijuana, with 53 percent of those 66 years or older strongly opposed.
Males appeared more inclined than females to favor medical marijuana. Fifty percent of males supported medical marijuana, compared to 46 percent of females.
Medical marijuana also found slightly more acceptance in western North Dakota than in the east. Staunch opposition to legalized recreational marijuana use showed little geographic difference, however.
Even younger voters, those 18 to 30, lacked majority support for legal recreational marijuana use. In that age bracket, 30 percent strongly supported and 18 percent somewhat supported legalized recreational use.
Acceptance in North Dakota of medical marijuana use could gradually build if Minnesota’s new medical marijuana law proves workable and popular, Wood said.
The Minnesota Legislature approved a tightly controlled medical marijuana law.
When medical marijuana is available to eligible Minnesota patients in July 2015, smoked marijuana will not be allowed. Prescriptions available for approved diseases or conditions will be restricted to a liquid extract.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.