Support for legalizing marijuana in Virginia appears to be growing like a weed, according to a University of Mary Washington poll released last week.

According to a UMW news release, 61 percent of more than 1,000 adult Virginians interviewed for the survey said they are in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. Thirty-four percent of those surveyed oppose legalization, according to the results of the poll, which was conducted by telephone from Sept. 3-15 for UMW by Research America Inc.

The same question on a 2017 UMW survey turned up much different results, with only 39 percent of respondents supporting recreational legalization of marijuana.

Stephen Farnsworth, UMW professor of political science and director of its Center for Leadership and Media Studies, thinks the poll shows Virginia is moving in a new direction.

“The latest Mary Washington survey demonstrates—to quote Bob Dylan, The times, they are a-changin’—here in the Old Dominion,’” Farnsworth said in the release.

National polls also indicate a growing acceptance of legalizing marijuana, including an April CBS poll in which 65 percent favored legalization, up from 45 percent in 2013.

But marijuana remains illegal on the federal level as a Schedule I substance, which the DEA defines as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD and Quaaludes.

While roughly a dozen states and Washington, D.C., have fully legalized cannabis, it remains illegal in Virginia, although the state has granted permission for low-dose, non-psychoactive THC-infused products for certain medical conditions.

The UMW poll showed that 72 percent of Democratic respondents support legalizing marijuana, compared with 62 percent for independents and 41 percent for Republicans. More Latino respondents (72 percent) supported legalization than blacks (66 percent) or whites (58 percent), the poll showed.

Most older Virginians are against legalization, with only 36 percent supporting it. But most other age groups support legal marijuana, according to the poll, especially those younger than 25. Eighty percent of those under 25 approved of legalization, the survey showed.

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Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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