Louisiana Voters Support Marijuana Legalization and Are Split on Mandatory Vaccines for College Students

marijuana leaf

A majority of Louisiana’s voters support legalization of recreational marijuana, according to a new poll by Dr. Edward E. Chervenak and Dr. Anthony Licciardi on a behalf of the University of New Orleans Survey Research Center. Respondents were also asked if they thought college students should be required to receive a Covid-19 vaccination before returning to classes in person. 

The 692-person poll surveyed voters with cell phones via live calls and reached voters with traditional landline phones by interactive voice response (IVR). Conducted April 26 through April 28, 2021, landlines accounted for 55% of the sample while mobile phones accounted for 45%. The margin of error was +/- 3.7%. 

“I’ve tracked the opinions of Louisiana voters about legalizing the recreational use of pot for 5 consecutive years. Each year there is more support for legalization and less opposition. This is the first year that support has exceeded 50%,” said Licciardi. “Louisiana lawmakers have the opportunity to get it done right in this session, before Mississippi takes the lead on it, like it did with casino gaming in the 1990’s.”

“Over the past several years attitudes have shifted nationwide in the direction of making pot legal. Recent polls indicate Louisiana residents may be moving in that direction as over 50% now favor legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. In addition, elected officials have seen how other states are cashing in on legal pot as a means to bring in additional revenue for the state,” stated Dr. Edward E. Chervenak.

The survey also yielded other valuable information. Opinions on legalization are polarized along party lines. Attitudes toward legalization are influenced by age and race. Respondents are evenly divided on whether returning college students should be required to receive a vaccination to prevent Covid-19. Respondents are split along race, age, household income variants on vaccinating college students. Democrats and Republicans are also highly polarized on the vaccination issue.  

The results of the survey indicate that a solid majority of 55% of voters surveyed are in favor of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Slightly more than one-third (36%) are opposed to the idea. Nearly 10% said they did not have an opinion on the matter.

By a slight (3%) majority, more men than women support the legalization. Along racial lines, Blacks are more supportive of legalization than Whites by a statistically significant margin (62% to 53%). Non-Black minorities are more opposed than in favor of legalization. A near majority of them oppose legislation compared to approximately one-fourth of Black respondents.    

As to be expected more younger people support legalization that older ones. Sixty-eight percent of voters between the ages of 18 to 34 support legalization while only 38% of those over the age of 65 are in favor. Middle age respondents re more in favor than opposed by a nearly 20-point margin.

Educational attainment has no real effect on attitudes about legalization.  College graduate and non-college graduates think almost exactly alike on the issues. Support for legalization is very similar in households which earn above $50,000 annually as well as those who earn below $50,000 annually.   

Yet the views of registered Republicans and registered Democrats vary widely. Two-thirds of Democrats (66%) are in favor of legalization while less than a majority (44%) of Republicans support that position.  Independents and members of other third parties are more closely aligned with Democrats.

Support for recreational marijuana was strongest right here in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District (63%) followed closely by the 6th Congressional District (62%) and the 4th Congressional District (57%). Less than half of 5th Congressional District voters who were surveyed support legalization for personal use.  

Voters are also evenly split as to whether college students should be required to get Covid-19 vaccinations before they return to in-person classes. Forty-six percent of those surveyed support the requirement and 46% oppose the requirement. Eight percent are undecided.

Women are slightly more likely than men (48% to 44%) to say yes to the vaccinations. There is a statistically significant distinction between Blacks and other racial groups. Nearly 60% of blacks compared to 40% of white and 43% of other minorities believe college students should be required to get vaccinated. One-third of Blacks say no to the vaccinations compared to a majority of Whites and a near majority of other minorities.

More senior citizens (65%) support vaccination for college students than other age groups. Only 35% of those 18-34 years of age think vaccinations are necessary for returning in-person students. Middle age respondents (35 to 64) are twice more likely than seniors to oppose mandatory vaccinations. The level of educational attainment also makes no difference. Forty-seven percent or college grads and 46% of non-college grads support vaccination mandates.

When it comes to household income levels, great difference appear.  Only 41% of respondents with total household incomes above $50,000 believe that college students should be vaccinated, while 55% of families earning less than $50,000 do not support the measure.  

Democrats and Republicans are diametrically opposed to each other on the issue. Sixty-four percent of Democrats support mandatory vaccinations for college students returning to on-campus classes while only 29% of Republicans feel the same way. “We should not be shocked to see how polarized those who are affiliated with the two major political parties are on this questions,” said Chervenak. “The partisan divide we see nationally on the Covid issue is play out out in Louisiana as well.”  Independents and members of other third parties are basically split on the question.

Support for student vaccinations are highest in the metro New Orleans area. Only poll respondents in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts agree by at least 50% that students should be vaccinated before classes begin again. Support for the initiative is weakest in the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts. 

The 692 respondents were appropriately divided by age, race and political party.  Twenty-six percent of respondents were between the ages of 18 to 34 and 50 % were 36-64 years of age. Seniors represented 23% of the sample.  Black voters comprised 31% of respondents and White voters approximately 64%. Forty percent of those who participated were Republicans, 36% were Democrats and approximately 24% belonged to third parties. 

Several bills are proceeding through the Louisiana Legislature that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Today the state’s House Judiciary Committee voted 9-2 in favor of legislation by Rep. Richard Nelson that would impose fees sand set up a marijuana business licensing system if legalization is enacted.  The bill would impose a $2,500 annual licensing fee and a $100 annual fee for a personal cultivation permit.  

Another bill introduced by Nelson which would allow adults 21 year of age and older to legally the purchase and possess up to two and a half pounds of marijuana from licensed retailers was approved Tuesday by the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee and is headed to the floor.   

Nelson’s legislation also asked regulators to create a permit for adults to grow up to six plants for personal use. Also today the House Agriculture, Forestry Aquaculture and Rural Development Committee moved forward legislation by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder concerning hemp regulations.  If enacted that bill would bring regulations for Louisiana hemp production in line with new federal rules which were put in place last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Schexnayder’s legislation would also allow food and beverages containing CBD to be produced and sold in Louisiana. Last week in a 12-1 vote, the House Health and Welfare Committee supported a bill by House Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee allowing medical marijuana patients to access raw cannabis flower. Just days ago the full house approved another Tanner bill by a 70-25 vote which would impose a 4.45 % sales tax on raw cannabis products.  

Governor John Bel Edwards said earlier this week that he has “great interest” in this year’s marijuana legislation.

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