HELENA — Most registered voters in Montana prefer stricter regulations concerning medical marijuana rather than repealing the 2004 voter-approved initiative that made medicinal marijuana use legal, according to a poll by the Lee Enterprises Capitol Bureau that was released Sunday.
When given three options, the poll found 57 percent want stricter regulations while 31 percent want the law repealed. Eleven percent favor the current law. The rest weren't sure.
"It should be revised," said Gary Stewart, a retired Great Falls resident. "It shouldn't be repealed. I just think it's out of control. I've never smelled it. I've never smoked it. I'm just an old guy. (But) I think there are some people that it helps."
Montana voters in 2004 approved a medical marijuana law that allows patients with serious illnesses to use marijuana, and for caregivers to provide it and grow it.
"I don't think it's right to repeal something that the voters of the state have put into the law," said Peggy Cain, a retired nurse in Missoula. "I'm in favor of medical marijuana."
But some contend the law is being abused with some 28,000 registered medical marijuana users in the state, and state lawmakers have been considering repealing the law. Most legislators say something should be done to rein in the state's marijuana industry. They say the boom in patients, providers and pot shops has gone beyond the intention of the voter initiative approving the law.
And last week, federal agents with guns drawn raided medical marijuana operations across the state, executing 26 search warrants and four civil seizure warrants as part of an 18-month investigation into large-scale trafficking and tax evasion.
The poll released Sunday also found that if given just two options — keep the law or repeal it — 52 percent wanted the law dumped. Thirty-eight percent opposed repealing it and 10 percent weren't sure.
"I feel it needs to be repealed," said Ella Schultz of Deer Lodge, a retired accountant. "I'm anxious about the children, about the people that are smoking it in their house or having it in their cookies. Marijuana is the first step. Montana is going to be a big crime place. The mob is going to come in."
Another poll question asked whether voters favored enacting stricter regulations or leaving the law alone. To that, 83 percent want tighter oversight, while 13 percent don't. Four percent weren't sure.
"I think fix it up," said Richard Hanson, a licensed private investigator in Columbus. "I think we need it, but, boy, I think it's being abused as is."
The statewide telephone poll of 625 registered voters was conducted March 14 to 16 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. of Washington, D.C. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.