Marylanders who have tried pot are far more likely to favor its legalization, new poll finds

Marylanders who acknowledge having tried marijuana are nearly twice as likely to favor its legalization, according to a new poll.

Among citizens who say they’ve tried pot, 67 percent think it should be legalized, the Goucher Poll found. That figure drops to 35 percent for those who say they have not tried the drug.

Overall, the poll found, 50 percent of Marylanders favor legalization, while 39 percent are opposed. That result is largely consistent with a Washington Post survey last month.

The results of the Goucher Poll come as the Maryland General Assembly debates a number of bills related to marijuana usage. Some seek to legalize pot, much as Colorado and Washington state have done. Others would reclassify use of small amounts of marijuana as a civil offense subject to only a $100 fine.

On Wednesday, the state Senate advanced a measure that would decriminalize marijuana by imposing a civil fine for possession of small amounts of the drug. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), would remove criminal penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana; instead, violators would receive citations carrying up to a $100 fine that could be paid like a traffic ticket. A final Senate vote is expected later this week.

Sen. Christopher B. Shank (R-Washington) successfully amended the bill so that a judge would have the discretion to order a third-time offender to attend drug treatment or education programs approved by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The D.C. Council took a similar approach last week, passing legislation that would make possessing marijuana and smoking it in the privacy of one’s home a civil offense, punishable by a $25 fine. On Tuesday, the D.C. Board of Elections cleared the way for activists to begin collecting signatures for a November ballot measure that could legalize marijuana in the nation’s capital.

The Goucher Poll also found broad support among Marylanders for some other measures pending before the legislature:

●Eighty percent said they support requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave for their employees.

●Seventy-three percent expressed support for raising the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour.

●Seventy-one percent said they support including gender identity in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

The poll of 861 Maryland citizens was conducted between March 2 and March 6 and is said to have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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