The Washington Post

Coloradoans: Pot is okay, but pothead politicians aren’t

With the Colorado state Capitol visible in the background, partygoers dance and smoke pot on the first of two days at the annual 4/20 marijuana festival in Denver, on April 19, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

Nearly five months in, Colorado residents say legalizing recreational marijuana was a good idea, but they won’t vote for a candidate who avails himself too freely of that new law.

“Colorado voters are generally good to go on grass, across the spectrum, from personal freedom to its taxpayer benefits to its positive impact on the criminal justice system,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a statement. “But if you are a politician, think twice before smokin’ them if you got ’em.”

Legalization was good for the state, according to 52 percent of those surveyed. But a large share — 38 percent — still disagreed. Only among Republicans and seniors were such attitudes flipped: More than 60 percent of each group believed legalization was bad for the state.

When it comes to pot-smoking politicians, Coloradans were hesitant. If a candidate were to smoke two or three times a week, 52 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for him. Frequent pot smoking would make just 3 percent of respondents more likely to vote for the candidate, while 43 percent said it wouldn’t make any difference to them. Smoking often would be most detrimental to a candidate’s appeal to Republicans, three-fourths of whom said they’d be less likely to vote for such a candidate.

(Pew) (Pew)

But that doesn’t mean a candidate needs a squeaky clean past. According to a 2011 Pew survey, right, having smoked before was less detrimental than having had an affair. Just under 1 in 4 said smoking would decrease their support for a candidate, while just under 1 in 2 said the same of a politician who has had an affair. So the responses to Monday’s Quinnipiac poll may have to do with the frequency of pot use.

The poll also found that more than half of residents believe driving hasn’t become more dangerous and the new industry will save taxpayers and the state money. Although sizable shares — roughly 40 percent — say the opposite. Only a fifth believe it will reduce racially biased arrests.

About half of respondents said they’ve tried marijuana, while half said they hadn’t. Majorities of all but three demographic groups — Republicans, women and seniors — reported having tried pot. The vast majority of respondents — 84 percent — said they haven’t used since it became fully legal, although nearly one in three 18- to 29-year-olds have.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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