The latest Pew Research Center survey about marijuana legalization shows that across the United States, six out of ten people support legal cannabis. But in Wyoming, support for legalization lags behind the national average. Less than half of adults in Wyoming support legalizing cannabis for adult use, according to a new survey. However, that less-than-majority support represents a significant increase from where Wyomingites fell on the issue four years ago. And the growing support for legal weed comes as Wyoming lawmakers work to tighten the state’s cannabis laws, already among the strictest in the nation.
Why Is Wyoming So Anti-Weed?
Since Colorado passed its landmark adult use law, Amendment 64, back in 2012, its neighbor Wyoming has kept a fraught eye on the cannabis industry there. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Wyoming have been studying how legalization elsewhere is changing attitudes toward cannabis there.
Conducted by the Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center at UW, the most recent poll shows that 49 percent of Wyoming voters support legalizing marijuana. The poll is the third in a series of biannual surveys university researchers began conducting in 2014. Over those four years, researchers say that support for legal adult-use cannabis has risen 12 percent.
The survey’s method is also revealing, and may shed light on why Wyoming has historically been so anti-weed. Researchers polled 607 random Wyoming residents from every county in the state. They also weighted the raw data to “nearly perfectly match the actual distribution of voter affiliation in Wyoming,” says lead researcher Brian Harnisch.
Age and Political Affiliation Determine Support for Legalization in Wyoming
Matching the survey’s dataset to voter affiliation reveals how drastically one’s politics shapes their views on cannabis policy. According to PEW’s October 2018 data, which found that 62 percent of Americans favor adult-use legalization, 51 percent of Republicans say the use of cannabis should be illegal. Among Democrats, only 28 percent feel the same way. Judging by 2016 general election data, Wyoming is a sharply Republican state. With a 74.4 percent voter turnout, 56.2 percent of voters picked Trump, and only a quarter of counties went blue.
In addition to political affiliation, age was also a determining factor in Wyoming voters’ support for legalizing marijuana. Fitting the national trend, Wyoming voters generally tended to favor legalization more the younger they were. There were some interesting exceptions, however. Those aged 18-24 showed the most support, at 63 percent—right about the national average. Interestingly, Wyoming officials say their state has the lowest rate of cannabis usage among young people in the nation.
Equally interesting is that right behind millennials in terms of support were people between the ages of 55 and 64, 61.2 percent of whom are in favor of legalization. Support hovers around the mid-50s for those ages 25 to 44.
Opposition to legalization reached a majority among those 65 and older. 75 and older oppose legalization at a rate of 81 percent. But the outlier is the age group 45-54, with 64 percent opposed.
Wyoming Voters Support Medical and Drug Reform, But Do Lawmakers?
The above results reflect survey data on the question of adult-use cannabis. But UW researchers also polled participants about their views on medical cannabis and drug sentencing reform. They found both issues enjoy wide support among Wyoming voters. According to researchers, support for medical cannabis is up 5 percent from 2016, with above 70 percent support across all age groups. Furthermore, 69 percent of Wyoming residents believe convictions for misdemeanor cannabis offenses should not come with jail time. Although, that number is down from 72 percent in 2016. Lawmakers, however, are pushing ahead with efforts to further criminalize cannabis use and possession.
Around Wyoming, some neighboring and nearby states are pushing ahead on legalization measures of their own. Utah is set to vote on a contentious medical cannabis bill this November. And North Dakota voters will weigh in on adult-use legalization.