A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released Wednesday finds slightly more than half of New Jersey voters surveyed said people should not be penalized for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Nearly three in five voters questioned said the penalties should be reduced.
The support for reduced or eliminated penalties for pot possession was the highest since the poll first started asking the questions in 1972.
Support - both for reducing and eliminating penalties - was roughly the same across all income categories and among blacks and whites. One major divide remained: Sixty percent of Democrats support eliminating penalties and 64 percent supported reducing them. Among Republicans, both figures were lower. Forty-four percent wanted punishment reduced and 42 percent want it eliminated.
Support for allowing marijuana for medical purposes was even higher. About six of every seven voters favored it.
The state has a law to allow medicinal cannabis, but so far no dispensaries are open. The state has been gearing up for the industry to launch. Over the past several days, it has announced that rules for the dispensaries will be finalized on Dec. 19 and named an official to head up their regulation.
But the six nonprofit organizations chosen to grow and sell the medical marijuana have been struggling getting local zoning approval. A major factor seems to be that while residents support the concept of medical marijuana, they do not want the enterprises in their own communities.
The telephone survey of 753 randomly selected registered voters was conducted Nov. 9-12 and has a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.