Published On: Fri, Jan 10th, 2014

New poll shows growing majority of WV voters support making medical marijuana legal

Results come as state lawmakers prepare to consider a bill that would allow patients suffering from serious illnesses to access and use marijuana if their doctors recommend it

A poll released Monday shows a growing majority of West Virginia voters support making medical marijuana legal. The survey, conducted in December by Public Policy Polling (PPP), found 56 percent of voters support changing state law to allow people with serious illnesses to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Just 34 percent said they were opposed. The same survey question asked by PPP in January 2013 found 53 percent supportive and 40 percent opposed.

“West Virginians clearly want the legislature to take action on this issue,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Marijuana can be an effective treatment for a wide variety of debilitating medical conditions and symptoms. It’s time to adopt a policy that allows people to use it without fear of arrest.”

The results of the survey come as state lawmakers prepare a bill that would make it legal for West Virginia residents with debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, to access and use medical marijuana if advised to do so by their physicians. Twenty states and the District of Columbia allow patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

“States around the nation have established programs that provide patients with safe and legal access to medical marijuana,” Simon said. “West Virginia should be the next state to adopt one, not the last.”

The PPP survey also found that support for broader marijuana policy reform is growing among West Virginia voters. A majority (51 percent) now supports removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replacing them with a civil fine, similar to a parking ticket. Just 35 percent are opposed. In January 2013, 49 percent supported such a change and 38 percent were opposed. A plurality (46 percent) supports making marijuana legal and regulating it like alcohol.

The survey of 614 randomly selected West Virginia voters was conducted Dec. 17-18. The full results are available at http://www.mpp.org/WVpoll.