The race is on to legalize marijuana in the Midwest, and as it stands, Michigan seems to have the lead.

Push to Decriminalize MichiganA new poll found that roughly half of Michigan’s residents support cannabis legalization, up from 47 percent two years ago. The poll, commissioned by the state’s NORML chapter, sampled 600 Michiganders.

Fifty percent of respondents said they would vote to legalize if the question were on the ballot. Meanwhile, 46 percent said they would vote against reform. Four percent of respondents were undecided.

Michigan approved medical marijuana in 2008, with every county in the state voting in favor. It’s been a rough road to an effective system, but reform is steadily progressing across the state.

Legalized at the local level

Last year, for example, several communities voted to legalize pot at the local level. State law still bans the drug, but these votes can free local police to ignore marijuana offenses.

Support for mairjuana legalization isn’t yet as strong as it is elsewhere in America, but there’s no doubt that it’s growing stronger. If any state is likely to bring legal weed to the Upper Midwest, it’s Michigan.

That fact is especially impressive when you consider the state’s political makeup. Liberal Democrats control Detroit and other Rest Belt towns, but Republicans control most of the rest of Michigan.

As a sign of how hostile the state can be to cannabis, a local prosecutor went on a rant against medical marijuana last year that cost her the case she was arguing. The courts chastised her for attacking a valid state law in front of an impressionable jury.

MMJ introduced by voters in 2008

Yet somehow enough voters supported MMJ in 2008 that the issue won the majority in all 83 counties. The new polls show that support for recreational pot is relatively strong and growing.

In the Midwest, only Illinois has similar levels of support. A recent poll there found that upwards of 60 percent of Illinois voters favor decriminalization. The pollsters didn’t ask about outright legalization.

The new Michigan poll broke down along familiar political and demographic lines. Democratic men were the most likely group to want legalization, with 70 percent in favor.

By contrast, only about 35 percent of Republican men favor legalizing weed. Democratic women, on the other hand, support the idea by 55 percent, while just 39 percent of Republican women take the same position.

2016 will be a significant year

Marijuana LeafThe group behind the poll, EPIC-MRA, said the best chance for pot advocates will come in 2016, a presidential election year.

The political environment would be “more favorable in higher turnout elections, especially if support continues to increase,” the group said in a statement.

The immediate likelihood of legalization is very low, in other words. The state’s governor is a Republican who opposes cannabis reform, and he would likely block any attempts by lawmakers to change the law.

But the outlook is still good. The new poll found that 39 percent of Michiganders would “definitely” vote yes on legalization, while 35 percent would definitely vote no. Three percent said they leaned toward saying no, and 2 percent said they lean toward yes.

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