PHOENIX — The way pollster Mike Noble sees it, unless there’s an extensive and well-financed campaign against it, Arizona is likely to be the next state to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana.
A recent survey by OH Predictive Insights released Tuesday finds that more than six out of every 10 residents polled said they definitely intend to vote for the measure headed for the November ballot. Just 32% say they’re definitely opposed.
That’s a significant change from when Noble asked in December, when the margin of support was 51-42%.
Noble noted that a similar measure in 2016 failed by about 4 percentage points amid an extensive — and expensive — campaign amid claims that adult access would lead to greater teen use and more accidents. Foes spent $6.1 million at the time, with much of that coming from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
This year, however, the business group may find its hands full and its resources drained by two other high-profile measures it hopes to kill. One would impose a surcharge on incomes above $250,000 for individuals to provide more cash for K-12 schools, the other would mandate pay hikes for hospital workers.
And at this point, the chamber isn’t promising anything.
“We will assess our financial commitment once we know exactly which initiatives will appear on the November ballot,” said spokesman Garrick Taylor. There are legal efforts underway to block votes on both the tax and hospital proposals.
And if those legal challenges fail?
“Our opposition to legalized marijuana is well known,” Taylor said. “But crowded ballots containing important issues make for tough decisions.”
Lisa James, heading Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, won’t say what kind of budget she is counting on for this year’s anti-legalization campaign.
“We expect to have the funds we need to see through a campaign that will resonate with voters,” she said. “And we expect the same result as last time.”
Last time, however, surveys taken both about the same time ahead of the 2016 race and again shortly before the election found a bare majority of registered voters in support. The current picture, Noble said, finds much broader support.
He said that 60-plus percent base of support runs uniformly among urban, suburban and rural voters. Even parents of children say they intend to vote for it, though backing is stronger among those without offspring.
Women support legalization more than men, with stronger backing among those in the 18-to-54 age group than those who are older. But net there is net support among seniors, too.
There is one demographic where opponents outnumber supporters.
“The Republicans are the last outpost on this,” Noble said, with 44% in support and 52% opposed. He suggested that may be why the Republican-controlled legislature opted not to take up a proposal to deal with the issue — and adopt it in a way that could be amended if there are problems — choosing instead to try to kill the issue at the ballot.
And Noble said that this could prove a losing battle for the GOP.
“It’s coming,” he said of legalization. “It’s only a question of when.”
James acknowledged that similar measures have been approved in 11 other states, including California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. And she did not dispute that Arizonans who have traveled to those states have been able to experience the ability to walk into a storefront and walk out with marijuana in some form.
That, James said, may provide them with a somewhat limited view of the issue.
“They don’t live there,” she said. “They don’t live with it every day.”
James said her message will be to educate Arizonans to the problems she said have developed elsewhere, including an increase in black-market sales of the drugs in California as well as an increase in the number of people in Colorado who say they are driving under the influence of the drug.
“There’s plenty to be shared with voters that they may not be aware of yet,” she said.
Anyway, James said, just because other states have gone that route doesn’t mean Arizonans will follow suit.
“There’s a reason that people live in Arizona,” she said.
“We’ve never been a follower state, we’ve always been a leader state,” James continued. “We’re very independent and I think Arizonans will keep that streak of independence going.”
The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted earlier this month, with about two thirds through live callers and a third through automated responses. It is considered to have a margin of error of 4 percentage points.