COLUMBUS — A poll released Wednesday shows 90 percent of Ohio’s registered voters support the idea of legal marijuana for medical use, coming a day after the state House took a big step in that direction.
The poll also showed that the race for the U.S. Senate seat between Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland remains a dead heat.
Support in the Quinnipiac Poll dropped off to 52 percent when it comes to recreational use of pot, in line with numbers seen last year before Ohio voters soundly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have legalized cannabis for recreational, medical, and commercial use.
The Ohio Senate has begun hearings on the House-passed bill that would establish a strictly regulated system of providing doctor-recommended marijuana to patients.
Patients would be prohibiting from smoking pot but could use it in vapor, oil, patch, edible, plant material, or tincture form. They could not grow plants but would have to buy their pot from licensed dispensaries.
These restrictions may keep the door open for a competing proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.
If passed, such an amendment would override legislative action.
Just 9 percent of the 1,042 registered voters questioned said they oppose medical marijuana, but opposition jumps to 45 percent for allowing people to have small amounts for personal use.
Ohioans appear to have made up their minds as just 3 percent said they don’t have an opinion.
In the Senate race, Mr. Strickland leads Mr. Portman 43 percent to 42 percent, a statistical tie in a poll that has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
“Republican Sen. Rob Portman might consider introducing himself to Ohioans,” said Peter A. Brown, the poll’s assistant director. “He is locked in a neck-and-neck re-election fight in which 42 percent of voters say they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. In fact, Democratic opponent Ted Strickland, a former governor, is somewhat better known than he is.”
Thirty-five percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Mr. Portman while 37 percent approve of Mr. Strickland.
Sixteen percent of voters remain undecided or say they will vote for someone other than the two major party candidates on Nov. 8.
Portman campaign spokesman Michawn Rich said the poll shows the Republican incumbent steadily closing the gap from a 9-point difference in Mr. Strickland’s favor just over one year ago.
“More than 1,000 volunteers have helped us contact nearly 2 million voters because they are excited about Rob’s message and fight for results for Ohio families,” Mr. Rich said.
Strickland spokesman Liz Margolis saw it differently, suggesting the poll points to what they see as Mr. Portman’s disconnect from Ohioans.
“The fact that more than 40 percent of Ohio voters still can’t pick Portman out in a lineup is another indication of how disconnected he is from the people of Ohio,” she said.
Mr. Brown said that Governor John Kasich’s job approval among Ohioans has slipped a bit from the low 60s to 58 percent — “not surprising since running for president often does that to politicians who try to move up to higher office and fail.
“But he remains the most popular politician in the state,” he said. “Democrat Senator (Sherrod) Brown’s 46 percent approval rating isn’t as good, but his name continues to pop up.”
Senator Brown was with Hillary Clinton on her visit last week to southern Ohio. Picking him as her running mate, however, has the drawback of handing his seat to Republicans at a time when Democrats hope to regain control of the Senate.
The governor would pick Senator Brown’s successor for the two years left in his term.
President Obama remains under water in Ohio with exactly half of registered voters disapproving of the way he’s handling his job compared to 45 percent who approve.
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