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  • Writer's pictureElucidation Strategies

Views on Cannabis in the Garden State

In March 2023, the Rutgers University, New Jersey State Policy Lab, shared a data brief, "Perceptions Concerning Cannabis Use: A Survey of New Jersey Residents."

Authors Charles Manifold and Yong Chan Rhee published the survey findings and conclusions. According to the summary, the survey included "many pivotal questions," but noted that "one section of the survey collected data from respondents on cannabis usage, and opinions on the benefits of medicinal and recreational cannabis." New Jersey residents were polled during the summer of 2022; nearly 2,000 residents participated in the survey.

So, when a couple thousand New Jersey residents are asked how they feel about cannabis, what do they say?

The "notable findings," as shared in the Executive Summary, are below.

  • Nine in ten survey participants (91%) agree (strongly or somewhat) that cannabis can be beneficial for persons with certain medical conditions.

  • Indeed, three-quarters of respondents (78%) agree (strongly or somewhat)that the benefits of using cannabis medicinally outweigh the harms and risks associated with its use.

  • By comparison, nearly six in ten (58%) agree (strongly or somewhat) that the benefits of its recreational use outweigh the risks; 36% do not.

  • Nonetheless, two-thirds of respondents (67%) support the legalization of adults’ possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use; almost three in ten (28%) do not.

  • More than six in ten respondents (63%) believe that it should be legal for adults to grow cannabis for personal use.

  • Comparing respondents based upon their political affiliation, Democratic respondents are more supportive (82% strongly or somewhat support) of legalizing adults’ possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, than are Republican and Independent respondents (56% and 64%,respectively).

  • Similarly, residents with higher incomes express greater support for legalizing adults’ possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use (71% strongly or somewhat support among those earning more than$200K) than do those earning less than $50K (63% support).

  • More educated respondents are also more supportive of legalizing adults’ possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use (69% support among those who completed at least some college versus 57% support among those with no more than a high school education).

What are the key takeaways here? The data indicates that views on cannabis are more favorable than not and provides insight on perspectives, based on demographic profiles. It also becomes clear that public opinion and public policy aren’t aligned. What questions might come to mind when consuming the survey conclusions, imagining that New Jersey respondents represent the larger population?

Q1: How is cannabis still categorized as a Schedule 1 substance (two criteria: no medicinal value and high potential for abuse), when 90% of the population all agree that "cannabis can be beneficial for persons with certain medical conditions"? Where is the disconnect?

Q2: Why is the discrepancy so large between those of differing political views? What could that indicate? Is this indicative that cannabis prohibition is more (and always has been) about politics than “public safety”?

Q3: Why is there such a difference (78% versus 58%) between views about medical in comparison to adult-use? If all use was considered a “wellness” practice, how would survey participant responses shift?

This data spotlights how views on cannabis use vary widely and provides a starting point for exploring the complexities associated with how we think about the plant. The results can be used to spark conversations based on research, not opinion. These kinds of resources are significant to replacing misinformation with accurate information.

Interested in viewing the entire brief? Visit Rutgers Policy Lab to learn more.

Contact Elucidation Strategies for cannabis education consulting services.


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