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NJ Divided on Pot Legalization [AUDIO]

Garden State residents are evenly divided on the idea of legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but they’re not high on a bill that would make that happen.

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(David McNew, Getty Images)

A new Monmouth University-Asbury Park Press poll cuts through the smoke and asks New Jerseyans their thoughts on pot and other substances that are already legal.

“New Jerseyans are pretty much split down the middle on the idea of legalizing marijuana here,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Forty-eight percent support it and an almost identical 47 percent oppose it.”

Just under 36 percent of respondents admit they’ve tried marijuana. Men (56 percent) are more likely than women (39 percent) to back the idea of legalizing pot in New Jersey. Democrats (49 percent) are far more likely than Republicans (37 percent) to support it.

There is a bill in the legislature that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of pot for personal use. Adults 21 and older would be allowed to buy the drug at licensed facilities, and 70 percent of the sales tax revenue would go to pay for transportation projects.

“Just 36 percent of New Jerseyans think that this is a good idea, while 45 percent say it’s a bad idea and 18 percent are not sure right now,” Murray said. “I think it’s a difference between the general idea of legalizing marijuana and the specific idea of whether New Jersey is going to be able to implement this right and put up the right safeguards.”

Alcohol and tobacco are already legal for those of age in New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean residents think those two substances are less dangerous than marijuana.

“Fifty-nine percent say alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana,” Murray said. “Only 18 percent pick marijuana in that case, and 58 percent say tobacco is more dangerous to use than marijuana. Only 21 percent choose marijuana when it’s pitted against tobacco in terms of its dangerous use.”

Opinions don’t change much when Jerseyans are told that federal law would still ban marijuana use, even if the Garden State legalized it. The same goes for the fact that tax money would be used to fund road and bridge work. Murray said people don’t seem to care about either of those things when asked about them in the context of pot legalization.

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