Nearly 64% of Connecticut residents surveyed last month support legalizing recreational cannabis, according to a Sacred Heart University poll released this week as state lawmakers consider the issue with three weeks left in the legislative session.
Pollsters surveyed 1,000 residents between April 20 and April 26. They found that 63.9% supported legalization of cannabis for people at least 21 years old and 61.6% supported expunging the criminal records of those previously convicted of marijuana possession crimes.
Both are elements of a legalization bill before the legislature this year. Although the concept has support from the Democratic legislative leaders, as well as Gov. Ned Lamont, the issue has become tangled over divisions on social equity provisions and how best to ensure communities damaged by the prohibition on cannabis get a fair stake in its proposed commercial industry.
During a press briefing Tuesday, House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, who has led a negotiating team for House Democrats, said lawmakers and the governor’s office were continuing to negotiate the bill. As the clock winds down on the legislative session, House Speaker Matt Ritter has said he would consider convening a special session on the issue if a deal was close when time ran out.
“I’m not saying that’s the preferred route, but I’m also saying we wouldn’t rule it out.” Ritter said Tuesday.
Rojas pointed to a similar scenario that played out in New Mexico earlier this year when policymakers reached an agreement on cannabis legalization late in that state’s legislative session then convened a special session to focus on the issue.
“It allowed them to get out of their legislative session and really focus on what is a very complicated and significant policy change for the state of Connecticut so it merits a lot more attention,” Rojas said.
The 63.9% approval found in the Sacred Heart University poll was a slight decline from a similar poll in March, which found 65.7% support. The decline was within the poll’s 3% margin of error. The survey suggested that 76.3% of Connecticut residents believe cannabis to have equal or fewer effects than alcohol.
Pollsters also surveyed residents on other issues including their feelings on the governor’s job performance and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lamont’s approval rating declined slightly from 57.3% in March to 55.7% in April, according to the poll. Meanwhile, 69% reported approving of his handling of the pandemic as opposed to 70.1% in March.