A new poll says a majority of Mississippi voters not only want the Legislature to create a medical marijuana program like the one the state Supreme Court nullified, but they favor allowing recreational use of pot.

Nathan Shrader, chair of government and politics and director of American studies at Millsaps, said the poll shows a vast divide between Mississippi voters and politicians on marijuana and other issues.

The latest State of the State survey by Millsaps College and pollster Chism Strategies reports that 63 percent of those polled want the Legislature to enact something “mirroring” Initiative 65 – a medical marijuana constitutional amendment that voters passed overwhelmingly last year but the state high court shot down. It reported that 52 percent of those polled support recreational marijuana legalization, with 37 percent opposed.

The poll reported that 20 percent said legalizing medical marijuana is the most important issue in how they’ll vote in the next statewide election.

The poll also reported that 52 percent of Mississippians support expanding Medicaid to cover roughly 200,000 working poor Mississippians. A move to put this before voters were also derailed by the recent Supreme Court ruling that declared the state’s ballot initiative process constitutionally flawed because of outdated signature-gathering rules.

Despite years of debate and fizzled attempts, lawmakers have balked at allowing medical use of marijuana or at accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid despite growing movements to do both. The divide has typically fallen along partisan lines, with the supermajority GOP leadership thwarting both efforts.

“Mississippi voters overwhelmingly support legalizing medicinal marijuana, which was actually done by the electorate last November,” Shrader said. “They also favor legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and expanding Medicaid by healthy margins. If you look closely at what the voters are expressing in terms of their policy preferences, you will see they do not appear to be anywhere near the same ideological positions as the majority of the state’s elected officials. The coming months, including the 2022 legislative session, will be a test of how long the state’s elected leaders can hold positions that are greatly at odds with the majority of Mississippi’s voters.”

The poll, part of a continuous quarterly survey since 2017, was conducted May 26-28 with a sample size of 659 via cell phone and landline, weighted to reflect voter turnout in 2020 elections. The margin of error is reported at 3.82 percent.

The poll also reported:

n 38 percent of voters believe the state is heading in the wrong direction, while 34 percent think the state is moving in the right direction. Just over 28 percent are unsure.

n A 28-point gap exists between those who approve and disapprove of the state Legislature’s performance, with 49 percent disapproving and 21 percent approving of their work. 30 percent are unsure.

n 48 percent disapprove of the performance of Gov. Tate Reeves, while 35 percent approve and 17 percent are undecided.

n 64 percent of voters who favor expanding Medicaid do so because they believe too many Mississippians are unable to get access to the healthcare coverage they need.

n Opponents of Medicaid expansion are almost evenly split between their concern of becoming overly dependent on Washington, D.C., and those who think expansion is too expensive for taxpayers.

n 55 percent support Gov. Reeves’ decision to opt-out of federal unemployment benefits that provided an additional $300 to help Mississippians who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 35 percent oppose the decision, while 10 percent are unsure.

n Less than a quarter of those who have not already received the COVID-19 vaccination say they are likely to get vaccinated, while 61 percent of those who are unvaccinated say there is nothing that will convince them to get the vaccine.

n Nearly 40 percent of voters want the census-driven congressional and legislative redistricting process this year to be conducted by a non-partisan commission of citizens and experts. 24 percent would like a hybrid panel of citizens and elected officials, 15 percent think redistricting should continue to be handled by the state legislature, and 22 percent are unsure.

n 60 percent support the job police are doing in their local communities, and nearly 75 percent believe police should have pay raises.

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