KALISPELL, Mont. — Ten states and the District of Columbia legalized recreational use of marijuana. Montana isn’t among those states, but that could change. New poll data from the University of Montana show a majority of Montanans questioned support legalization of marijuana.
UM’s Big Sky Poll tallied answers from 293 registered voters in Montana. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.72 percentage points.
Almost 51 percent of poll participants supported legalization of marijuana. The 18-26 age group had the highest percentage of supporters, while the 67 and older age group had the lowest.
Almost 80 percent of Democrats polled supported legalization, compared to 33 percent of Republicans.
Kalispell resident Andrea Effertz said she thought legalization of marijuana could be a good idea because of the tax revenue it could generate.
“I think it could be really helpful for our roads, maybe, our school systems, whatever it could go toward,” she said.
Karen Nichols agreed, noting tax revenue as a reason for legalization.
“The state needs tax revenue,” she said. “We’ve made huge cuts in social services, and any way we can restore some of that funding I think is great.”
The marijuana industry generates millions of dollars in tax revenue for other states.
The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration reports the industry netted $74.2 million in taxes from April 1 to June 30, 2018.
Since 2014, Colorado has gotten almost $950 million in marijuana taxes and fees, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Oregon Department of Revenue numbers show the marijuana industry brought in almost $10 million in state and local taxes this past January.
But there are drawbacks.
California, Oregon and Colorado all saw a spike in marijuana-related emergency department visits after marijuana was legalized.
According to an Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report, the rate of marijuana-related emergency department visits increased by 85 percent between October 2015 and October 2016.
In Colorado, a Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report shows a 151-percent increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths since it was legalized.
Nichols said if marijuana is legalized in Montana, she wants to see tight regulations to ensure safety.
“I do support it, if it’s done well,” she said.