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North Carolina Citizens Support Cannabis Legalization, Poll Shows

February 12, 2021

A poll conducted by Elon University has revealed support for both medical marijuana and adult-use recreational cannabis in the state of North Carolina, with 73% in favor of medical legalization and 54% in favor of recreational legalization. The poll, last conducted in 2017, showed a slight dip in support for medical use (from 80% to 73%), with an uptick in the recreational sector (45% to 54%). 

Opposition for medical marijuana remained steady at 17 percent, while opposition to recreational cannabis dipped dramatically, with just 34% of North Carolinians explicitly opposing the substance for adult use. 

Demographics of Elon’s North Carolina Cannabis Poll 

Demographic trends in North Carolina were consistent with similar nationwide polls in that young people were most likely to back legalization. There is a major generational divide on the subject, as exemplified by polling results on recreational legalization: 

Ages 18-24: 62% in favor 

Ages 25-44: 66% in favor 

Ages 45-64: 52% in favor 

Ages 65+: 32% in favor 

Democrats were also more likely to support recreational legalization at 59%, while republicans supported reform at a clip of just 43%. 

NC Looks to Move on Decriminalization as First Step 

While republicans and older generations were generally opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana, both of these groups extended support for medical marijuana and the lowering of criminal penalties surrounding cannabis. While State Senator Wiley Nickel (D) tweeted in favor of supporting legalization of recreational cannabis, calling it a social justice, revenue, and medical issue, he says that “the first step is decriminalization then medical use.”

Under North Carolina’s current state laws, possession of less than ½ ounce of marijuana is a class 3 misdemeanor punishable with a fine of up to $200. According to the latest available data in 2019, over 8,500 North Carolinians were convicted of these misdemeanors, with 61% of those individuals being nonwhite. Possesses ½ to 1.5 ounces of marijuana is considered a class 1 misdemeanor with up to 45 days imprisonment and a $200 fine. In 2019, 70% of those convicted were nonwhite. 

As North Carolina works to move towards the future, advocates hope that decriminalization — and eventual full-scale legalization — is on the horizon to mitigate the negative impacts of the war on drugs in the state. 

Contributed by Jack Berning