(Denver Post file)

Analyst: Poll shows that ‘voter passion is opposed to’ social pot consumption

Last week, the backers of a potential Denver ballot measure that would legalize marijuana use at some businesses that opt in, including bars, released a commissioned poll that showed 56 percent of likely voters would support the idea.

Not so fast, a veteran Denver political analyst says.

Despite that top-line support number, Floyd Ciruli says, his reading is that the poll “shows a public with little enthusiasm for the spread of marijuana consumption to bars and clubs.”

How is that? In a post on his blog Tuesday, Ciruli argues that what’s more revealing about a ballot measure’s chances are the levels of strong support or opposition.

That subset of poll results in the survey, which was performed by Public Policy Polling, found 31 percent would “strongly oppose” the pot consumption initiative as described, versus just 20 percent who would “strongly support” it.

“Voter passion is opposed to the initiative,” Ciruli wrote, which in his mind speaks to a challenge still facing marijuana advocates.

Ciruli also pointed out that the 56 percent overall support, including those who “somewhat” support the idea of allowing limited public consumption, was 10 percentage points short of Denver voters’ 66 percent approval for Amendment 64 in 2012.

He also cited what he saw as a flaw in the new poll’s wording:

The question asked was framed with the initiative language as designed by lawyers and marijuana advocates. It emphasized the limits, not the expansion of commercial use. If opponents were framing the question, it would ask if voters wanted to expand marijuana consumption to bars, clubs and outside spaces. The verb “expand” is different from the verb “allow.”

Of course, the backers of the ballot measure, who are collecting signatures to put it on the November ballot, have expressed more optimism about its chances.

“Denver voters have made it quite clear that they support treating marijuana like alcohol,” Mason Tvert, a national pot activist and one of the primary authors of Amendment 64, told The Denver Post last week. “Voters approved measures to that effect in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012, and so it’s not surprising that we’re still seeing such strong support, even among a more conservative voting population in an off-year election.”

So far, we’ve only got the one poll, which was performed by a reputable Democratic-leaning polling firm, notwithstanding Ciruli’s reservations about the wording. It will be interesting to see which opposition organizes against the initiative and what further polling shows.