Majority of Jerseyans support legal pot — and expect it to benefit the economy, poll finds

Nearly 6-in-10 New Jersey residents support the legalization of marijuana for personal use, up from fewer than half four years ago, according to a new Monmouth University Poll.

The poll, released Thursday, found that 59 percent of New Jersey adults surveyed were OK with the legal possession of small amounts of cannabis for person use, while 37 percent were against the idea. Support for legalization has risen from 48 percent in April 2014, against 47 percent opposition, the Monmouth University Polling Institute added.

More Democrats, Republicans and independents all supported legalization, the poll found. Democrats’ support grew from 49 percent in 2014 to 65 percent in the most recent poll, while independents’ support grew from 51 percent to 60 percent and Republicans’ support grew from 37 percent to 45 percent.

“The strongest argument for marijuana legalization may be the bandwagon effect,” Patrick Murray, director of the polling institute, said in a prepared statement. “With many other states doing it, most New Jerseyans seem to view such a move as a potential economic boon with a limited downside.”

While 60 percent of New Jerseyans said legalization will benefit the state’s economy, the poll found that only 16 percent thought it would hurt business in the state, while 20 percent thought it would have no impact. Not only did 68 percent of Democrats say it would help, 60 percent of independents and 50 percent of Republicans agreed, the polling institute said.

However, the poll did find concerns about an increase in drug crime, with 32 percent worried about the issue, compared with 26 percent who said it legalization would lead to a decrease in offenses and 39 percent who said it would have no effect.

“Even though increasing drug crime is not a major concern in the marijuana legalization debate, the public sees other serious issues with drug use, especially opioids,” Murray said.

The poll asked residents about the opioid addiction problem, and found that nearly 9-in-10, some 86 percent, thought it is a very serious issue nationwide, with another 9 percent thinking it is somewhat serious. And 1-in-5 of those polled, 20 percent, thought opioid addition is a bigger problem in New Jersey than nationwide, compared with 13 percent who said it is less of a problem and 59 percent who said it is about the same.

Further, a majority, 59 percent, said the state is not doing enough to deal with the problem.

The poll of 703 New Jersey adults was conducted from April 6-10. It has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percent.