Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2013
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2013 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Kevin Fagan
Page: A1


A firm majority of California voters now favors legalizing marijuana 
for recreational use, signaling a significant change in attitude from 
ambivalence in recent years and outright hostility three decades ago, 
according to a Field Poll released Wednesday. Mike Kepka / The 
Chronicle 2011 A new poll found that 66 percent of Bay Area 
registered voters favor legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

Fifty-four percent of registered voters who responded to the Field 
survey supported legalizing the drug and subjecting it to the same 
sort of restrictions that exist for alcohol. Forty-three percent 
opposed the idea and 3 percent had no opinion.

The Bay Area led all regions of the state in favoring legalization, 
with 66 percent of respondents saying they liked the idea.

Areas elsewhere were more closely split on the concept, from 52 
percent favoring legalization in the rest of Northern California, Los 
Angeles County and the Central Valley to 47 percent backing it in 
conservative southern coastal areas including Orange and San Diego counties.

The last time the Field organization surveyed Californians' attitudes 
on allowing recreational use of marijuana, 50 percent were in favor. 
That was in 2010, four months before voters rejected Proposition 19, 
which would have legalized pot, by 54 percent to 46 percent.

The latest numbers reflect a quantum leap from the Field Poll's first 
measure of Californians on the subject, in 1969, when only 13 percent 
favored legalization. That approval figure had grown to only 30 
percent in a 1983 Field Poll.

'Gradual evolution'

"This reflects a gradual evolution of California voters on a number 
of issues. They seem to be becoming more liberal in their views," 
said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. "A lot of that has 
to do with the changing demographics.

"Baby Boomers are replacing their parents, and they have been exposed 
to marijuana all their lives," he said. "So they may not all support 
marijuana legalization, but they are more comfortable with the issue."

The Field Poll asked four questions, the main one being: "Do you 
favor or oppose making the use of marijuana legal, with age and other 
controls like those that apply to alcohol?"

The greatest support for legalization, 61 percent, came from voters 
ages 30 to 39, followed by 58 percent for those ages 18 to 29.

Close split for seniors

Respondents 65 or older - a demographic that only recently has 
included the oldest Boomers - were the lone age group to oppose 
legalization. But even among senior citizens, opposition to 
legalization - at 52 percent - was slim.

"We need the money - that's why I'd legalize marijuana for everyone," 
said 82-yearold John Ortega of San Rafael, among those surveyed. 
"They did it for alcohol, so now let's do it for marijuana."

Field pollsters also asked voters if they still support the right to 
use medical marijuana, which was legalized in California in 1996. The 
72 percent approval figure was virtually unchanged from previous 
Field Poll samplings in 2010 and 2004.

The poll also found that 58 percent of those surveyed were fine with 
allowing marijuana dispensaries to operate in their communities, and 
that 67 percent opposed federal efforts to crack down on businesses 
that sell medical cannabis legally under the state law.

Other states take action

The Field organization conducted the survey of 834 registered voters 
over 13 days in early February, three months after voters in 
Washington and Colorado became the first states in the nation to 
legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Inspired by those elections, leaders of many pro-cannabis 
organizations in California are working on taking another ballot-box 
run at statewide approval in 2014 or 2016.

"I had problems with the way they were trying to do it back in 2010, 
but I think we're all on board now," said Dale Gieringer, director of 
California NORML, a marijuana advocacy group. "I am confident we will 
make it back to the ballot."

A major objection to Proposition 19 was that it left most regulation 
to individual communities, raising the possibility of a patchwork of 
conflicting rules across the state. Gieringer said advocates are now 
leaning toward proposing at least some standardization statewide, as 
in Colorado and Washington.

However, the federal government still views marijuana as illegal, and 
antipot activists say they stand ready to fight any new legalization try.

"We never closed down after the 2010 election," said Scott Chipman, 
co-founder of the statewide Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana. 
"Marijuana is dangerous in the workplace, it's dangerous on the road, 
and we will oppose any effort to make it more legal."

Fewer women in favor

Aside from older voters, two other groups in the new Field Poll 
bucked the trend toward approving recreational pot use: women and Latinos.

DiCamillo said the 46 percent approval figure from women reflected 
"greater concerns than men overall about children and family." The 41 
percent support total from Latinos is due to their being "a more 
conservative social group, especially those who are older," he said.

The poll director noted, however, that Latinos ages 18 to 39 backed 
legalizing cannabis by 53 percent. That, he said, shows that "younger 
Latinos are taking on the values and social mores of their own generation."

The margin of error in the poll was 3.5 percentage points, a number 
that grew to five percentage points for demographic subcategories.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom