Pubdate: Sun, 03 Mar 2013
Source: Times-Standard (Eureka, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Times-Standard
Authors: Steven Harmon and Grant Scott-Goforth


Californians support legalizing pot in greater numbers than ever -- 
and they want the federal government to cool it with the crackdowns 
on medical marijuana dispensaries.

In a Field Poll released Wednesday, California voters, by a margin of 
54 percent to 43 percent, supported allowing legal sales of 
marijuana, as long as restrictions are in place on age, driving under 
the influence of the drug and licensing those who sell it. That 
represents the highest level of support since the Field Poll began 
asking the question 44 years ago, when most California believed pot 
was the gateway drug to more hurtful substances.

Only 13 percent of California adults supported legalizing marijuana 
in 1969 -- the year of Woodstock.

"Now, we're getting to the point where baby boomers have lived with 
this stuff for most of their lives," said Mark DiCamillo, director of 
the Field Poll.

Humboldt State University sociology professor and member of the 
Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research Josh 
Meisel said the result doesn't surprise him.

"Intuitively, it makes sense to see an upward tick," he said. "Public 
opinion has been shifting."

Two-thirds of 834 registered voters said they opposed the Obama 
administration's raids on medical marijuana outlets, in which nearly 
200 dispensaries -- most in California -- were targeted in President 
Barack Obama's first term. Local governments have taken cues from the 

Two hundred cities and counties have banned medical marijuana dispensaries.

The state Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling on whether local 
governments can shut down dispensaries.

Nearly three-fourths -- 72 percent -- of Californians back the 
state's existing medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1996. 
And a strong majority -- 58 percent -- would support allowing medical 
marijuana dispensaries in their own community.

"Certainly, it's a rebuke of the Obama administration's tactics," 
said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Oakland-based Americans for Safe 
Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. "It should indicate that 
the Justice Department's tactics are unacceptable and should be reconsidered."

Obama once criticized President George W. Bush for his aggressive 
approach to shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries. But Obama 
is on pace to exceed Bush's record of medical marijuana busts.

Though voters support medical marijuana, just over two years ago they 
rejected a ballot measure to legalize pot, Proposition 19, by a 53 to 
47 percent margin. Legalization had only narrow support -- 50 to 46 
percent -- in a Field Poll four months before that election, and the 
measure's chances for success were derailed by what political 
analysts called a lackluster campaign and a vague regulatory plan.

Proposition 19, a 2010 initiative to legalize, tax and regulate 
marijuana cultivation and sales in California failed when it garnered 
only 46.5 percent of the vote that year.

Humboldt County's population centers were fairly unequivocal in their 
rejection of the legalization initiative, with two notable exceptions.

In Eureka, 52.8 percent of voters opposed the measure. That number 
jumped to 59.2 percent in the Willow Creek and Hoopa area, 62.9 
percent in Fortuna and a whopping 65 percent in Southern Humboldt.

The vote was closer in McKinleyville, where 51 percent of voters 
opposed the measure.

The anomalies came in Arcata, where Proposition 19 won nearly every 
precinct and was supported by more than 57 percent of voters, and 
Trinidad, where 58 percent of voters favored the measure.

While Humboldt County is considered "marijuana friendly," HSU 
politics professor Kathleen Lee said in 2010 that voters likely 
rejected it because they didn't believe in legalization, didn't like 
the wording of the initiative or worried the proposition would 
deflate market prices that have long been held up by marijuana's illegality.

It's unclear if the attitude has changed since 2010. The Field Poll 
cites 52 percent approval of legalization in its "Other Northern 
California" polling region, but indicates that number came from a 
small sample base.

Anthony Silvaggio, another HSU sociology professor and member of the 
institute, agreed the Proposition 19 campaign was flawed, though the 
failed initiative gave Colorado and Washington insight into writing 
successful legislation and tapped into a "general distrust of the 
federal government."

Silvaggio said increasing support among Californians could likely be 
attributed to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington.

"California and Oregon were the most likely states that many social 
scientists thought would be the 'first' to legalize marijuana," 
Silvaggio wrote in an email. "I would have to say that the bump could 
be partly attributed to the fact that Washington and Colorado were 
the first to legalize, and Californians (even the staunchest of 
conservatives) never like being left behind regarding cultural issues 
like this."

A coalition of Proposition 19 supporters met in December to discuss 
potential future California ballot measures. They've said that 
they're targeting the 2016 presidential election ballot, though they 
haven't ruled out putting it on the ballot in 2014.

A younger and more tolerant electorate is changing the political 
landscape. Among voters between the ages of 18 and 29, legalization 
has a 58-39 edge; among 30- to 39-year-olds, it has a 61-38 percent 
advantage. Voters 65 or older are the least likely to support 
legalization, with only 43 percent in favor and 52 percent against.

Independent voters most strongly support legalization, at 59 percent, 
closely followed by Democrats, at 58 percent.

Forty-two percent of Republicans favor legalization, a number Meisel 
said proved telling.

"I think it's interesting, looking at the numbers demographically," 
he said. "Forty-two percent who say they support marijuana 
legalization is significant."

Latinos are just as against it, with only 41 percent in favor. But 
Latinos between the ages of 18 and 39 support it, 53 to 47 percent. 
Only 30 percent of Latinos 40 and older support legalization.

Voters living in the Bay Area are most likely to support legalizing 
pot, with 66 percent in favor. Voters along the coast south of Los 
Angeles County are the least likely, at 47 percent.

The poll, taken Feb. 5 to 17, has an overall margin of error of plus 
or minus 3.5 percentage points.

On the web:

The full results of the Field Poll can be viewed online at

Visit the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom