By CARA MATTHEWS
Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY - A poll released today by Cornell University Survey Research Institute found that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use.
A higher percentage of upstate residents support it than people who live downstate - 67 percent versus 62 percent.
There is a marked difference in attitude between Democrats and unaffiliated voters on one side and Republicans on the other, according to the poll. Sixty-six percent of Democrats and 68 percent of unaffiliated voters support legalization for medical use, while a plurality of Republicans -- 48 percent - said they are against it.
More men support medical marijuana than women -- 67 percent to 61 percent. The higher the household income, the more likely the support for legalization -- 53 percent for people with household incomes below $30,000 compared to 73 percent for those with incomes of $100,000 or more, the Survey Research Institute said.
The 2010 Empire State Poll surveyed New Yorkers on a number of issues facing their community and the state, including medical marijuana, community satisfaction, economic perceptions, drilling in the Marcellus Shale and the state budget. More than 800 telephone interviews were conducted in February and March.
Legislation to legalize medical marijuana didn't get through the Senate or Assembly this year. It would have allowed patients registered with the state Department of Health to have up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana on hand at any one time. It could not be smoked in public places. The state would register organizations that would acquire, manufacture, sell, deliver, transport and distribute marijuana for medical use.
Bills on the topic have been introduced for more than a dozen years. The Assembly has passed legislation twice before. Neither house brought the bill to the floor for a vote this year.
Fourteen other states allow the use of marijuana for patients who have serious or life-threatening medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis. Users have said it relieves nausea and reduces chronic pain and muscle spasms.
There are strong supporters and opponents of allowing patients to smoke marijuana for medical reasons. Groups that oppose it argue there are synthetic drugs in pill form that are legal, and allowing possession of marijuana could lead to more drug abuse and crime.
Those that support it, including patients, say smoking marijuana is more effective and can be controlled better if it is smoked versus taking a pill.
Quinnipiac University found in a February poll that 71 percent of New York voters think legalizing marijuana for medical use is a good idea. Twenty-five percent said no.