Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2013
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2013 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Peter Hecht
Page: 3A


California voters favor legalizing pot for recreational use, strongly 
support the existence of medical marijuana dispensaries and want the 
feds to butt out of the California cannabis business.

In a California Field Poll released today, voters - by a 54 to 43 
percent margin - say they want California to legalize marijuana 
beyond medical use with regulations similar to alcohol.

In the state with America's largest medical marijuana industry, the 
poll found that 67 percent of voters oppose an ongoing crackdown by 
the state's four U.S. attorneys on businesses selling pot for medicinal use.

The statewide poll was conducted little more than three months after 
voters in Washington and Colorado each passed measures to legalize 
marijuana as a mere pleasurable pursuit - upping the stakes in 
America's marijuana debate.

The poll results indicate continued strong support for medical 
marijuana as the state Supreme Court is deliberating on whether 
scores of California cities and counties can ban marijuana dispensaries.

Meanwhile, California voters across party lines seem to be taking 
issue with federal threats, raids and prosecutions involving medical 
marijuana businesses.

The state's four U.S. attorneys have brought criminal cases against 
some medical marijuana providers and growers and sent letters 
threatening seizures of properties of others.

While all marijuana use is illegal under federal law, U.S. 
prosecutors assert California's medicinal cannabis industries have 
been "hijacked by profiteers" violating both state and federal laws.

In the poll of registered voters in early February, 68 percent of 
Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of independents 
said they oppose the federal crackdown.

"It's certainly not winning over the hearts and minds of 
Californians," state Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said of 
voters' reactions to federal enforcement efforts. "The getting tough 
policy by the feds is not impacting public opinion in a positive way."

Poll respondent Stewart Hintz, 47, a Republican from Rocklin who 
doesn't smoke marijuana, said the federal crackdown was inevitable 
because dispensaries appear to be drawing numerous people with little 
or no medical need. But Hintz said, it's time for pot to be legal - 
and for the government to back off.

"Once (alcohol) prohibition was repealed, the feds pretty much took 
their hands off  and I think that's the best model," he said.

Some 58 percent of Field Poll respondents also said they favor 
allowing medical dispensaries in their cities or towns, with the 
stores strongly supported by voters in Northern California, the San 
Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County and modestly supported 
elsewhere in Southern California.

"I haven't seen any substantive negatives" about dispensaries, said 
Patrick Cole, an independent voter in Butte County who last tried 
marijuana in college nearly four decades ago. "The executive branch 
gets on its high horse about how insidious this is and how it's 
corrupting our neighborhoods. Yet there is a liquor store on every corner."

The poll results drew a spirited response from the director of 
California's largest medical marijuana dispensary.

"This poll ... heartens me and makes me feel validated," said Steve 
DeAngelo, whose Harborside Health Center dispensary in Oakland is 
being targeted by federal prosecutors who have sued to seize the property.

He said the poll results also suggest that California politicians 
opposing medical marijuana and its distribution "are going to see 
serious consequences" at election time.

Richard Lee, who led Proposition 19, the failed ballot measure that 
would have legalized recreational marijuana in California in 2010, 
said poll results give momentum to advocates backing an initiative to 
legalize nonmedical use in 2016.

"I think it shows that it's going to win in 2016, and it's just a 
matter of writing the best law that we can."

Bishop Ron Allen of Sacramento's International Faith Based Coalition, 
a member of Californians Against Legalizing Marijuana, said the poll 
results show that "we have to do a better job of educating the 
community about the harms of marijuana."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom