ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – A new study from Rochester Institute of Technology found a striking difference between political parties on the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana in New York state.
RIT’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives senior research fellow Gregory Drake helped conduct the 384-person survey during the university’s Imagine RIT event last month. He said that most opinions on recreational cannabis depended on political party lines. Democrats were mostly positive. Republicans were solidly negative. Independents were often in the middle.
The survey found that over 85% percent of Democrats think legalized pot would not raise crime rates. That number is just under 50% for Republicans and 75% for independents. Roughly two-thirds (68%) of Republicans say that legalizing pot will hurt schools. Only a third (34%) of Democrats and nearly half (46%) of independents feel that way.
“We kind of live in two worlds,” said Drake. “We’re very siloed when it comes to our thoughts on things, and those two silos we live in are controlled by what we affiliate with politically.”
Despite the political lines, Drake said that public opinion has shifted on the issue as more people have had firsthand experience with the drug.
“All of the incredibly bad things associated with marijuana really weren’t as bad as it had been portrayed, if that makes sense,” said Drake. “So I think over time, people have sort of changed in their perceptions of the harms of marijuana.”
Competing measures on the legalization of marijuana have been proposed by state leadership this year. But some, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have recently expressed doubt that anything will be passed before the state legislative session ends next month.