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Do Coloradans regret legalizing marijuana? New poll says voters see pot as boon to state

With the November election less than two months out, the nine states voting on recreational and medical marijuana initiatives this year are looking to Colorado residents for guidance and perspective.

Each side of the legalization debate has its own narrative and spin on how Coloradans feel about legal cannabis nearly four years after voting overwhelmingly (54.8 percent to 45.1 percent) to legalize it — and nearly three years after implementing those recreational sales.

But how do Colorado voters really feel about the still-developing consequences of saying yes to Amendment 64 in November 2012? A new poll suggests Colorado voters do not have buyer’s remorse, The Cannabist has learned exclusively.

A majority of Colorado voters say legal cannabis has had a positive impact on the state and its economy and they would not support a repeal of Amendment 64 if it were on the ballot this year, according to a new poll commissioned by the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project and conducted by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

“One of the best indicators of whether legalization has been successful is how the public feels about it, and clearly most Coloradans think it was the right decision and wouldn’t want to change it,” said Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project spokesman and co-director of Colorado’s Yes on Amendment 64 campaign.

In the poll, 51 percent of respondents said they would oppose a measure to repeal Amendment 64, while 36 percent would support such a measure and 13 percent weren’t sure. When asked about Amendment 64’s impact on Colorado, 47 percent said legal cannabis has been good for the state while 39 percent said it’s been bad, 9 percent said it’s had no real impact and 6 percent weren’t sure.

Support was stronger for legalization when voters were asked about legal pot’s impact on Colorado’s economy, where 61 percent said the impact has been positive — and 19 percent said it’s been negative, 14 percent said there has been no impact and 6 percent weren’t sure.

The poll contacted 629 registered voters; The margin of error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

“There are a lot of folks trying to make it seem like the sky is falling in Colorado or that voters regret their decision,” said Tvert, “but this is yet another poll showing that they still support it.”

Tvert is referencing the politicians’ and anti-legalization groups’ reactions to Pueblo County’s Measure 200, which would halt recreational marijuana sales and operations in one of Colorado’s most 420-friendly counties if it passes in November’s election. Supporters of the repeal say retail cannabis has brought crime and transients to town; Those fighting the repeal say legal weed has rejuvenated a depressed economy with jobs and a leadership role in one of America’s fastest growing industries.

An example is now being made of Pueblo.

“As I saw myself when I was there, it is clear that many families and businesses in Colorado are having buyer’s remorse after legalizing commercial marijuana,” Massachusetts state senator Jason Lewis wrote in response to a recent take-out on Pueblo’s predicament by The Boston Globe.

Massachusetts is one of five states voting on recreational marijuana in November. Another four states will decide on their medical cannabis laws in the election.

Colorado town Manitou Springs faced a similar decision in 2014’s midterm elections, when a group of passionate locals wanted the future of the town’s retail cannabis facilities put to a vote. A strong majority voted against the measure and for recreational marijuana, and the town remains El Paso County’s only outpost with retail pot sales.

A majority of polls that have asked Coloradans about potential buyer’s remorse over legal cannabis have shown a continued support for Amendment 64. Nine months into legal sales, 55 percent of Colorado adults supported the law while 41 percent opposed it, according to a NBC News/Marist Poll. After a year of recreational sales, more than 90 percent of the respondents who voted in the 2012 election on Amendment 64 said they would vote the same way, according to a SurveyUSA poll done for The Denver Post.

An early-2015 Quinnipiac University Poll showed that 58 percent of respondents supported Amendment 64 while 38 percent opposed it. A late-2015 Quinnipiac poll found similar acceptance, with 55 percent supporting the law and 41 percent opposing it; In that poll 53 percent of voters said legal marijuana had been good for the state while 39 percent said it had been bad.

One outlier poll showed different results. Conducted in mid-2015 by SmithJohnson Research for sponsor Community Alliances for Drug Free Youth, this poll found that 51 percent of Colorado respondents would vote against pot legalization at that time.

Legalization opponent Kevin Sabet of Project Sam referenced SmithJohnson Research’s poll to say “we shouldn’t be surprised that Coloradans are coming around to opposing legalization.”

But Tvert says the new Public Policy Polling results affirm what a majority of research and polling has already found.

“It’s easy for opponents of legalization to put words into the mouths of Colorado voters,” Tvert said, “but these results actually let voters speak for themselves, and voters by and large would not want to go back to prohibition.”