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Connecticut Residents Support Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Potential tax revenue makes legalization appealing

This week at the state capitol, final debates over the current budget including taxes, electronic tolls and other potential sources of new income, are in full swing as the state legislature considers a number of bills before the session adjourns on June 5.  

Connecticut residents are weighing in on a host of legislative measures including what they see as a potentially lucrative and accessible revenue stream already being mined by other states—the legalization of recreational marijuana. Over the course of the session and, after some early initial successes as the measure passed several key committees, it now appears that it won’t come before the full legislature for a vote during this session.

Legalization of marijuana has gained ground in several states around the country. Many states, including neighboring Massachusetts, have already legalized recreational marijuana and products containing THC, and Connecticut approved the sale of medical marijuana in June 2012. Governor Ned Lamont indicated his support for legalization during his candidacy, and the poll indicates that many residents (59 percent) believe the potential tax revenue from sales of these products can potentially help bolster state finances.

A new phone and digital poll by Sacred Heart University’s Institute for Public Policy, completed in partnership with the Hartford Courant between May 10 and May 23, involved 1,000 Connecticut residents, most with strong opinions on taxes, potential new sources of revenue and the Governor’s commitment to addressing these polarizing issues.

Along with 59 percent support for legalizing recreational use, more than two-thirds of Connecticut residents surveyed “strongly” (69.1 percent) or “somewhat” (18.8 percent) support the state legislature’s proposal of expunging the records of individuals with convictions for low-level marijuana-related offenses. In addition, more than 80 percent of survey respondents favor having the majority of revenue from recreational marijuana sales be directed to urban areas and cities that have been disproportionally affected by the costs of drug-enforcement measures.

Other key findings from the SHU Polling Institute/Hartford Courant survey include:

  • 50.5 percent report they would prefer if the state worked to close the current budget deficit by reducing spending as opposed to raising taxes, which is only supported by 4.1 percent of those polled
  • Regarding Governor Lamont’s campaign promises, 84.5 percent of respondents reported it is important to them, as voters, that the Governor keeps his promise that, if elected, he would not raise income or sales taxes

“It’s obvious from this poll and previous polls we’ve conducted that taxes and the high cost of living in Connecticut continue to dominate poll results,” said Lesley DeNardis, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and director of Sacred Heart University’s master of public administration program. “Respondents are looking for tax relief and are open to new potential sources of revenue in an effort to avoid the loss of preferred services or valued programs, and to help mitigate the escalating cost of living in Connecticut. The legalization of recreational marijuana, already approved in nearby Massachusetts, is seen by respondents as a potential solution to help solve Connecticut’s budget crisis. And decriminalization, as well as directing funds to municipalities that have been disproportionally affected by the costs of drug-enforcement measures in the past are seen as viable options.”

However, despite strong support from the public and the Governor, the house speaker announced this week that the General Assembly will not vote on the measure during this legislative session. Instead, they are considering putting the measure directly to voters through a constitutional amendment process.

GreatBlue conducted the Connecticut-specific scientific telephone survey on behalf of the SHU Institute for Public Policy, interviewing 1,000 residents. Statistically, this sampling represents a margin for error of +/-3.02 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. This is the first poll presented under the new partnership with the Hartford Courant.  

Sacred Heart’s Institute for Public Policy, which was established in 2017 in the College of Arts and Sciences, is aligned with the University’s new master of public administration program. In addition to hosting state-wide polls, the institute conducts public policy research, hosts public forums and workshops and serves as a public-policy learning incubator for students.

A PDF file of complete polling results is available at www.sacredheart.edu/pollresults.