February 9, 2011 in Idaho

Most in Idaho back medical pot, poll finds

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

Statewide poll

The survey queried adults in 525 randomly selected Idaho households, included cell phone as well as land-line respondents, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

BOISE – A statewide poll that’s been conducted in Idaho for more than 20 years yielded a surprising result: 74 percent support for allowing “terminally and seriously ill patients to use and purchase marijuana for medical purposes.”

Just 23 percent of Idahoans queried in the Boise State University Public Police Survey said “no” to that; 3 percent said they didn’t know, according to results announced Tuesday.

Carole Nemnich, associate director of the BSU Public Policy Center, said the overwhelmingly favorable results on the “terminally and seriously ill” question were so startling that “we kept thinking, ‘this has to be wrong.’ ”

State Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, who introduced legislation this year to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho in precisely those situations, said, “I’m not surprised at all, because in similar states out here in the West, the results are 65 to 75 percent (in favor), as long as you focus, like we have, very narrowly on medical marijuana for folks who are in excruciating pain with long-term diseases.”

It also asked how strongly Idahoans agreed that the state “should allow the sale and manufacture of marijuana for medical purposes.” Those results were far more divided, with 46 percent agreeing and 46 percent disagreeing.

Trail said he’s working to make sure his medical marijuana legislation, House Bill 19, gets a hearing. The bill is pending in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Although neighboring Washington, Montana, Oregon and Nevada all have legalized medical marijuana, the substance is fully criminalized in Idaho, with possession classified as a misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

On other matters, the new BSU survey also found:

• Idaho now has more independents than Republicans – the first time that’s happened since the survey began.

It found that 39 percent of respondents identified their political affiliation as independent; 34 percent chose Republican; and 22 percent said they’re Democrats.

In 2007, Republicans were at 40 percent, independents 28 percent, and Democrats 25 percent.

• Just 49 percent of Idahoans say the state is headed in the right direction – the lowest number ever returned by the survey, which saw 70 percent choose that answer in 2004. “It could be a reflection of the tough times,” said BSU professor Stephanie Witt.


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