With New Jersey Legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Murphy reportedly close to reaching an agreement on legalizing recreational marijuana, a new Monmouth University poll finds a growing number of Garden State residents support the idea.

“Sixty-two percent of New Jerseyans support legalizing marijuana. Just 32 percent oppose that, and that’s a tick up from last year when it was 59 percent support,” said Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

He noted one of the big reasons why more and more New Jerseyans support the idea is because of “the increased tax revenue that it’ll bring in."

"Those who like this idea, 40 percent of them, say that’s really the main reason why they think it’s a good idea for New Jersey to do it," Murray said.

Other benefits?

“The majority of New Jerseyans look at legalization and say it’ll either be a good thing for decreasing drug crime or it really won’t change other drug crimes anyway, so you might as well go ahead and legalize it," Murray said.

At the same time, 28 percent think prosecuting marijuana possession and jailing users wastes resources. They think it's not very harmful, isn't addictive and should be treated similarly to alcohol.

Those who oppose the idea of legalizing marijuana are worried about a variety of problems.

“They do believe (28 percent) it is harmful or addictive, that it’s a gateway drug," Murray said. "Twenty-one percent say they’re worried about driving under the influence or car accidents.”

He said other reasons why people think legal pot would be bad include decreased productivity at work (6 percent), and difficulty in regulating it (also 6 percent).

The poll also finds 29 percent believe legal marijuana will lead to an increase in other kinds of drug crime.

“What’s interesting though is that many advocates say that it will actually do the opposite -- (that) it will actually decrease other drug crimes because it will bring marijuana out into the open," Murray said.

In fact, 32 percent of respondents think legal weed will decrease other drug offenses.

Murray pointed out while a majority of New Jerseyans are in support of legalizing pot, only half support the current legislative plan under consideration to legalize marijuana, while 34 percent oppose it..

Murray said that’s because some people “just aren’t sure the state will be able to pull this off correctly.”

The poll also finds 72 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Independents support legalizing it. Just 47 percent of Republicans feel the same.

He noted statewide support for legalization is significantly higher than five years ago, when it stood at 48 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed.

Murray said the poll also finds the idea of legal weed is more popular among younger voters than older ones.

“Those under 35, 81 percent support it, but only 53 percent of those who are age 55 and older do," Murray said.

The poll also asked respondents what should happen to those who have been convicted of possessing pot in the past.

He said “74 percent of New Jerseyans say give them the chance to clear their records, they should be able to expunge that crime from their criminal records if it was just a small amount if we’re going to legalize it now.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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