Poll: Support grows for legalizing small amounts of pot

A recent Brown University poll shows 47.6 percent of Rhode Island voters support legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

"To my knowledge, we've never polled on this question. So we wanted to get a sense of public opinion on this matter," said Marion Orr, director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy.

Of the 600 Rhode Island voters polled, 39.3 percent oppose legalization and 9.3 percent are undecided on the issue.

Support for legalization is strongest among younger voters. According to the poll, 65 percent of those 29 or younger said they supported legalizing small amounts of marijuana; 52.6 percent of those aged 30-44 supported legalization; 51.3 percent of those aged 45-59 supported legalization; and 40.9 percent of respondents 60 years and older said they supported legalization.

Orr said it's a hot topic now that states like Colorado and Washington have legalized and started regulating marijuana.

"What I found quite striking was across our age groups. Across age groups you found a majority of our respondents are supporting legalization, except for those over 60. However, among those over 60, 40 percent said they support legalization," Orr said.

"It's somewhat shocking to me. I remember so well when marijuana was totally illegal and now they've advanced it. They use it for medical advances and just legalizing it now," said David Durrett who supports legalization.

Groups like Open Doors in Providence are glad to see the shift in the tide.

The group primarily supports legalization because it thinks it will cut down on crime and keep people out of jail.

"Many people that go to prison every year are purely just for the non-violent crime of distributing marijuana. This does nothing to help society. It just holds people back," said Nick Horton of Open Doors said.

While the poll did not talk about taxing marijuana, it's one of the many reasons some people said they support legalizing it. They said they believe taxing marijuana could bring lots of revenue to the state of Rhode Island.

By making it legal, you would get the opportunity to tax it," said Jeff Mellow, who supports legalization.

A new report by Open Doors estimates Rhode Island could see $21 million to $82 million in tax revenue.

"When you add something like wording like to tax, my suspicion would be that the numbers would probably go up," Orr said. "Our state is really in an economic bind right now, so this might resonate with some people on Smith Hill.

The poll has an error of plus or minus 4 percent.