Support for legalizing medical cannabis in the bellwether states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania is at or near 90%, according to a Quinnipiac poll released on October 8. With 87% of Florida voters, and 90% of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania approving of medical cannabis it is easy to see why most industry experts predict that both Florida and Pennsylvania will have medical cannabis laws on the books by the end of 2016 - indeed the Pennsylvania legislature may pass a bill before the end of this year.
Though support for medical cannabis is incredibly high in Ohio the state is not predicted to pass a medical cannabis law soon because the ballot initiatives projected for 2015 and 2016 are for fully regulated personal use for all adults over 21. The Quinnipiac poll also offered some numbers for each state regarding legalization of personal use.
Florida voters are narrowly in favor of legalizing personal use of cannabis at a rate of 51% in favor to 45% against. Men were more likely to be in favor (57%) than women (49%). It's unsurprising that the 18-34 age demographic showed the highest support (66%), though it is a bit surprising that the 50-64 age group showed higher support (55%) than the 35-49 range (52%). Voters 65 and over remain the only demographic still opposed to the legalization of the personal use of cannabis for adults at 56% against.
Ohio voters support legalization of the personal use of cannabis at a rate of 53% in favor to 44% against. Men are more likely to support full legalization (59%) than women (47%). The age breakdowns, when compared to the 53% approval rate, reveal the greying of the state. 70% of the 18-34 age group in Ohio supports the full legalization of cannabis along with 59% of voters aged 35-49. Only 50% of voters aged 50-64 would vote for personal use, and again voters over the age of 65 are the only age group opposed to legalization with 64% against.
In Pennsylvania voters are still narrowly opposed to full legalization with 49% of voters against and only 47% in favor. Once again, men are more likely to support legalization (52%) than women (43%). Voters 18-34 are the most in favor (66%) followed by the 35-49 demographic (51%). The 50-64 age bracket in Pennsylvania is largely undecided about the legalization of the personal use of cannabis with 48% in favor and 47% against, and the 64% of voters 65 and over are opposed.
It's important to note in all of these cases that even though the numbers are very close in all three states, 65% of respondents reported that if cannabis were legalized for personal use they would not personally consume it. This means that a significant percentage of voters that are in favor of legal cannabis don't even have an interest in consuming the product. Whether it be because of the social justice aspect, the extra tax revenue legal cannabis brings, the monetary savings from not prosecuting and incarcerating non-violent consumers, or the efficacy of medical cannabis, voters in swing states are beginning to favor legalization even if they have no direct personal stake in the matter.
Political pundits often look to polling in these three states to try and predict the outcome of national elections and to spot national trends. This isn't necessarily because these states are policy leaders, but rather that the opinions and moods of these states represent the median of the country - populations that are equal parts conservative and liberal. With approval ratings like these from the American middle the next few years should be very exciting for legal cannabis.