With the death penalty weighing heavily on the minds of Connecticut residents, 67 percent of state voters support the death penalty, while only 28 percent of voters are opposed to it, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday.

The poll also questioned voters on two other major issues the legislature is expected to tackle soon: marijuana laws and the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

The poll results revealed that more than 70 percent of adult voters support medical marijuana when prescribed by doctors, and 65 percent support decriminalzing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The support for capital punishment is a new high, the pollsters said. In addition, 48 percent of voters said that the penalty for first degree murder should be the death penalty, rather than life in prison with no chance of parole, which is also a new high. Only 43 percent of voters said they believed the penalty should life in prison without parole.

"Historically, voters favor the death penalty about 2-1 when they are asked a simple yes- no question. When they are offered the choice, however, between the death penalty and life in prison with no chance of parole, voters have been evenly divided," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz.

The poll reveals that the public's thoughts have been heavily effected by recent major crimes, including the Cheshire home invasion murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two children in July 2007. Locally, the death penalty has moved into the forefront as 30-year-old New York resident Christopher DiMeo faces death for the 2005 murders of jewelry store owners Tim and Kim Donnelly. The death penalty hearing for DiMeo is underway and is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.

The March 10 poll results show that 97 percent of voters polled have heard about the Cheshire home invasion murders.

In October, 63 percent supported the death penalty compared to 23 percent, a survey by Quinnipiac revealed. Surveys since the July 23, 2007 Cheshire murders have shown support for the death penalty has inched up. It was up to 59 percent in favor to 31 percent against on Jan. 12, 2005, before the murders. In that same 2005 Quinnipiac University poll, Connecticut voters preferred life in prison without parole over the death penalty 49 to 37 percent.

In today's survey, death penalty support is 55 percent for and 40 percent against among Democrats, 80 to 18 percent among Republicans and 68 to 26 percent among independent voters. Men support the death penalty 73 to 24 percent, while women support it 62 to 32 percent.

Offered three choices, 10 percent said they favor the death penalty for all people convicted of murder; 16 percent said no one should be executed and 73 percent said the death penalty depends on the circumstances of each case.

"In Connecticut, the Cheshire home invasion murders appear to have changed that. Now voters back the death penalty no matter how we ask the question, but by a smaller margin, when they have the life without parole option," Schwartz said.

Connecticut voters favor the death penalty 74 to 21 percent for Steven Hayes, who has been convicted in the Cheshire murders, and 72 to 22 percent for Joshua Komisarjevsky if he is found guilty when his case comes to trial.

The poll also looked at other topical issues that will face legislation, including changes to the state's marijuana laws and the ban on the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

Voters support 79 to 17 percent allowing adults to use marijuana if a doctor prescribes it for medical reasons. Support is more than 70 percent among every group in the survey.

Connecticut voters also support 65 to 32 percent decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Support ranges from 53 to 45 percent among Republicans to 70 to 27 percent among Democrats, from 70 to 28 percent among voters 18-34 years old to 58 to 38 percent among voters over 65 years old. No group is opposed.

Voters also want to buy liquor on Sunday and support 66 to 31 percent allowing liquor stores to open on Sunday. This is the highest level of support ever for this question, up from 56 to 39 percent March 18, 2010.

But voters oppose 50 to 43 percent allowing groceries to sell wine or hard liquor. Republicans support the measure 50 to 46 percent while opposition is 48 to 44 percent among Democrats and 54 to 38 percent among independent voters. Men split 47 to 47 percent while women are opposed 52 to 41 percent.

"Both Sunday liquor sales and decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana win 2-1 support among Connecticut voters. And there is a near consensus on the medical marijuana law with about 8 in 10 voters supporting it," Schwartz said.

"It is rare to see such a level of support for any issue," he added.

From March 1-7, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,693 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. Live interviewers call landlines and cell phones.