September 23, 2013
Bill Shapard

Poll: Oklahomans Views Of Marijuana Are Changing

According to latest SoonerPoll results, Oklahomans are ready to consider marijuana for medicinal purposes and decriminalization. The poll had support for medical marijuana at 71% and support for decriminalization at 57%. The poll did not ask about legalization.

When considering arrest for a marijuana offense, nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) said they should be treated instead of jailed. Under current Oklahoma law, possession of any amount can earn one up to a year in jail for a first offense and from two to 10 years for a second offense. Marijuana sales—of any amount—can earn a sentence of up to life in prison.

The state's largest cities were the most in support.  In metro Oklahoma City and Tulsa, support for medical marijuana was higher than 75%, and support for decriminalization was at 67% in Tulsa and at 63% in Oklahoma City.

Even Oklahoma's notoriously conservative Republicans are ready for change. Support for decriminalization came from 53% of Republicans interviewed, lower than the 60% of Democrats and 65% of independents, but still surprising.

"I do hope that the polling results will help legislators feel more comfortable supporting marijuana reform," said Oklahoma NORML leader Norma Sapp.  "I always encourage people to contact their legislators. I think a statewide lobby day will be called when the need comes."

Senator Constance Johnston (D-Oklahoma City), who has filed medical marijuana bills for several years now without managing to get a hearing, told the Oklahoma Observer the poll echoed what she had been hearing from constituents.

"I like the results. This is very telling. It confirms what we’re being told across the state," Johnston said, adding that they could help ease legislators' worried minds. "The results make you wonder what these elected officials are afraid of," she said.

The poll of likely voters was conducted between August 28 and September 9, and was commissioned by NORML's Oklahoma chapter. The margin of error is ±4.9%.

Additional poll results, key takeaways, and complete question wording:

Question:  Fifteen states in America have decriminalized the possession of up to once ounce of marijuana for adult possession, meaning they would receive a fine rather than be criminally prosecuted and face possible incarceration.  Do you support or oppose joining these other fifteen states?

  • 57.1% support Oklahoma joining fifteen other states who have decriminalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adult possession, meaning they would receive a find rather than be criminally prosecuted.  34.5% strongly support, while 30.3 strongly oppose.
  • 53.1% of Republicans, 60.3% of Democrats and 64.5% of Independents support joining these fifteen other states, while 70.6% of those identifying themselves as liberal support, 69.5% of moderates and 46.3% of conservatives support this measure.
  • 44.7% of Evangelical Christians support joining these fifteen other states.
  • Tulsa MSA 67.3%, OKC MSA 62.8%, and rest of state 47.9% support joining these fifteen other states.

Question:  Oklahoma treat marijuana use as a public health concern, meaning send them to treatment, instead of making it a criminal justice matter?

  • 63.7% of likely voters in Oklahoma believe that Oklahoma should treat marijuana use as a public health concern.
  • 52.1% of those who identify themselves as very conservative agree they should be sent to treatment.
  • 43.9% of those likely voters attending religious services at least one time or more a week chose treatment, and 55.1% of Evangelical Christians chose treatment.

Question:  Twenty states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation.  Do you support or oppose Oklahoma joining these other twenty states?

  • 71.2% support joining twenty other states who now have laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation.  47.4% strongly support and 18.3% strongly oppose this measure.
  • 68.0% of Republicans, 74.6% of Democrats and 68.2% of Independents support this measure.
  • 62.8% of those ages 65 and greater support medical marijuana possession for medical purposes with physician’s recommendation.  Age categories younger than 65 range from 69.2% (18-24) to 80.5% (25-34).
  • Support for medicinal marijuana increases in the rest of the state to 66.4% with Tulsa MSA at 75.2% and Oklahoma City MSA at 75.4%.

Question:  Do you think laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be determined by the federal government, or left to each individual state government to decide?

  • An overwhelming majority, 81.6% of Oklahoman likely voters agree that laws regarding whether the use of marijuana is legal or not should be determined by the individual state governments, not the federal government.
  • 87.8% of Republicans, 76.3% of Democrats and 76.0% of Independents agree that individual states should be the decision-makers regarding legalization of marijuana.
  • All of the state regions (82.8% Tulsa MSA, 78.6% OKC MSA and 82.8% rest of state) agree that legalization of marijuana should be an individual state decision.

About the Poll conducted the random-sample, scientific survey from August 28 through September 9, using live telephone interviewers. Of the 404 respondents who participated, 110 were contacted by cell phone and 294 by land line (weighted). The combined results have been weighted to adjust for variation in the sample relating to age, sex and political party. The margin of error is ±4.9 percentage points. For smaller subgroups, the margin of sampling error is larger.

This poll conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. A complete description of the methodology can be found here.

The full Call Dispositions and Rate Calculations were calculated by and is available here.

Bill Shapard
About the Author

Bill Shapard

Bill is the founder of and ShapardResearch, a full service market research firm based in Oklahoma City. Bill began his career in polling after working on major campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats in Oklahoma from 1996 until founding SoonerPoll in 2004.