Pubdate: Tue, 04 Mar 2014
Source: Reporter, The (Lansdale, PA)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Author: Peter Jackson, Associated Press


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A large majority of Pennsylvania voters favor 
legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, but they are divided over 
whether possession of even small amounts for recreational use should 
be legalized, according to a poll released Monday.

The poll from Connecticut's Quinnipiac University focused on an issue 
being debated in the Pennsylvania Legislature and among the Democrats 
hoping to challenge Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's re-election bid.

The survey showed that 85 percent of voters believe adult 
Pennsylvanians should be allowed to use marijuana for medical 
purposes if their doctor prescribes it.

But voters are narrowly split on whether possession of small amounts 
of the drug should be legal for recreational use. According to the 
poll, 48 percent support such legalization and 49 percent oppose it, 
a gap within the survey's margin of error.

Respondents also split on whether pot is a gateway to hard drugs: 48 
percent said no, 46 percent said yes.

The poll included telephone interviews with 1,405 Pennsylvania voters 
from Feb. 19-24. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Asked whether they had ever tried marijuana, 55 percent of the 
respondents said no and 44 percent said yes.

Forty-nine percent said they believe that marijuana is as dangerous 
as alcohol, while 33 percent think it is less dangerous and 15 
percent said it is more dangerous.

Sixty-five percent said they would be very uncomfortable riding in a 
car driven by someone who had smoked or consumed a moderate amount of 
marijuana and 19 percent said they would be somewhat uncomfortable.

Colorado and Washington became the first states to approve 
recreational marijuana use in 2012. Medical marijuana is legal in 20 
states and the District of Columbia.

At a state Senate hearing in January, parents of children afflicted 
by epileptic seizures pleaded with lawmakers to approve a bill to 
legalize the medical use of marijuana, saying it could provide relief 
from the youngsters' pain that conventional medications cannot. The 
bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, is pending in the Law 
and Justice Committee.

In the seven-way Democratic primary race, the proposed legalization 
and taxation of marijuana is central to John Hanger's campaign. While 
the other candidates generally support allowing medical use of 
marijuana, they have not joined Hanger's call for legalization.

Hanger, a former state environmental protection secretary and former 
state utility regulator, advocates the immediate legalization of 
medical marijuana followed by decriminalization of possession of 
small amounts of the drug. That would be followed by full-fledged 
legalization by 2017, the next governor's third year in office.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom