The retired seamstress said she worked for minimum wage in 1958 in a canning factory, and at the time it seemed appropriate for a part-time person.

"I'm afraid [an increase] would hurt the small-business owners," said Harding, 73. "Then again, I wouldn't like to think that I would have to raise a family — or even support myself — on minimum wage."

Members of the General Assembly also are weighing a proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and another to legalize it completely. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has expressed support for legalization, but O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch have not.

Voters surveyed were split on what to do. Thirty percent said they want to make marijuana use legal and to tax it, similar to how alcohol is treated. Another 28 percent said they would rather downgrade its criminality, so that users caught with 10 grams or less would be issued citations like speeding tickets and face no risk of going to jail.

Those answers suggest a solid majority favors changing Maryland's laws, Raabe said, but there is not consensus on how far to go.

"This is still an issue that needs more discussion," he said. "People have not landed on it."

Melvin Kryglik, a retired teacher from Baltimore County, said he thinks the state should legalize marijuana and use the tax revenue to rebuild the state's infrastructure. Kryglik, 64, called it a "harmless drug" and said it would be in the public interest to stop sales on street corners.

"I'm not a marijuana smoker, but I don't think it's any more harmful than alcohol and tobacco," he said. "What other product in the world can cause all of the injury and harm as tobacco but still be legal?"

Lloyd Snyder, a political independent who lives in Shawsville in Harford County, favors decriminalization of marijuana.

"It's not a whole lot different than alcohol," said Snyder, 66. "We've had the war on drugs since Nixon. I don't think we've won yet. I don't think we're anywhere near winning."

Nevertheless, Snyder balks at the idea of legalization, fearing it would give young people more access to the drug. "They have enough problems without being involved in that," he said.

Some of the strongest opposition to legalization and decriminalization comes from Western Maryland voters such as homemaker Linda Hamilton of Westernport in Allegany County.

Hamilton, a 65-year-old Democrat, said she has no objections to marijuana for medical purposes but opposes recreational use. She said she's seen its effects on young people and hasn't liked the results.

"It did affect a friend of mine's grandson," she said. "It kind of made him a little irritable. It got to the point where he got mean with his grandmother."

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

ecox@baltsun.com

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

About the poll

OpinionWorks of Annapolis conducted the poll for The Baltimore Sun. It surveyed 1,199 likely Maryland voters by telephone Feb. 8 to 12, including Democrats, Republicans and independents. The margin of error is 2.8 percentage points.