September 18, 2014 / 9:38 PM / 4 years ago

Washington D.C. voters back legal pot by 2-1 margin: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - District of Columbia voters back legalized marijuana by a nearly two-to-one margin less than seven weeks before a referendum on the issue, according to a poll released on Thursday.

Hu Barney (C), smokes a joint during 420Fest at the Luxe Nightclub in Seattle, Washington April 20, 2013. In November 2012, voters approved legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in the state of Washington for adults over 21. REUTERS/Nick Adams

If voters approve Initiative 71 on Nov. 4, the U.S. capital would follow Colorado and Washington state into experimenting with legal pot.

Washington voters support the measure 65 percent to 33 percent, with backing reaching 79 percent among those ages 30 to 44, the NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll shows.

Whites support Initiative 71 by a roughly three-to-one margin, and blacks back it 56 percent to 42 percent, marking a sharp reversal of opinion. In a poll four years ago, 37 percent of blacks favored legalization and 55 percent were opposed.

Initiative 71 lets people aged 21 and over possess up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of marijuana. It allows for the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants at home.

The ballot measure does not touch on the sale of marijuana. The District of Columbia Council is considering a bill that would tax and regulate pot.

Supporters of marijuana reform have portrayed it as a civil rights issue since blacks in Washington were more likely to be arrested for possession than people of other races.

The referendum is part of a U.S. legislative wave to soften of pot penalties or legalize possession outright. Decriminalization of marijuana in the District of Columbia took effect in July, and Oregon and Alaska will vote in November legalization initiatives.

Marijuana reform in the capital has drawn the attention of Congress, which has constitutional oversight over the District of Columbia.

Possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law, but the U.S. Justice Department has said it will not intervene in states with “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems”.

The D.C. telephone poll was carried out from Sunday to Tuesday among 1,249 adults. The margin of error is 4 percentage points among 572 likely voters.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Eric Walsh

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