Pubdate: Tue, 10 Dec 2013
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2013 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Josh Richman
Page: 1


For the first time in 44 years, a clear majority of California voters
favors legalizing marijuana, a new Field Poll found.

And where there's smoke, there might soon be fire: A specific
legalization ballot initiative now seeking signatures to get on next
November's ballot also has majority support, the poll found.

"Debating about whether to legalize now is pointless, because we're
going to," said Mark A.R. Kleiman, a UCLA professor and drug policy
expert. "The smart debate is about how we'll do it."

California voters narrowly rejected a legalization measure in 2010,
and Washington and Colorado voters approved theirs -- the nation's
first -- in 2012. Kleiman said he actually is surprised the Field Poll
number isn't higher, in light of Gallup's report in October that 58
percent of Americans favor legalization -- the first-ever national
majority support. Dave Hodges smokes marijuana for a photograph in San
Jose, Calif. on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Hodges is the founder of A2C2 -
All American Cannabis Club. (Nhat V. Meyer, Bay Area News Group)

It has been a long climb. Only 13 percent of Californians favored
legalization when the Field Poll started asking about marijuana in
1969 amid the tumult of Woodstock, Stonewall and Apollo 11. In 1983,
as Nancy Reagan told America to "just say no," 30 percent of
California voters said yes. In 2010, the poll found 50 percent in
favor, yet that year's Proposition 19 legalization measure fell short
with 46.5 percent of the vote.

Now support for legalization stands at 55 percent, according to the
latest poll. Eight percent say anyone should be able to buy it, and 47
percent support legalizing it with age and other controls like those
for alcohol.

Legalization finds more support among Democrats and independents than
Republicans, more among liberals than conservatives and more among
white people than Latinos and black people.

The poll revealed a small generation gap: 64 percent of
18-to-49-year-old voters favor legalization, with support dropping
among older voters -- yet still 47 percent among those 65 and up.

"It's certainly a generational phenomenon" just like with other social
issues like same-sex marriage, said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo.

Yet he cautioned that these numbers won't spell an easy victory at the
ballot box, as older voters tend to turn out in higher numbers.

The Field Poll -- which surveyed 1,002 registered California voters
from Nov. 14 through Dec. 5, with an overall margin of error of plus
or minus 3.2 percentage points -- also asked voters whether they would
support the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative. That proposed ballot
measure would decriminalize marijuana and hemp use, possession,
cultivation, transportation and distribution for those over age 21,
and would require the Legislature to license and tax commercial sales.

After hearing a summary of the initiative's official ballot
description, 56 percent of voters said they would support it, 39
percent would oppose it and 5 percent had no opinion.

"That's amazing. A lot of people were on the fence about whether our
initiative could make it," ballot measure proponent Buddy Duzy said

"We still have to raise more money to get it on the ballot. Right now
we're working with volunteers mostly and a small number of paid
circulators," said the Simi Valley resident. "But this is big news,
because what was holding a lot of funders back was wondering whether
(the initiative) was too liberal. ... This should set a lot of their
minds at ease."

Duzy has until Feb. 24 to gather valid signatures from at least
504,760 registered voters to put the measure on November's ballot.

He might have competition. Organizers backed by the late Progressive
Insurance CEO Peter Lewis -- a prolific drug-reform advocate -- on
Dec. 4 submitted a "Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana Act" for
review by the state Attorney General's Office. And Americans for
Policy Reform submitted final revisions to its "Marijuana Control,
Legalization and Revenue Act" on Friday.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who's chairing an American Civil Liberties
Union panel on legalization, agreed the poll numbers shore up a
"growing consensus to move on this in 2014 and not wait until 2016,
and that's a big shift even from six months ago."

He quipped that he'd be the last person to say it's coming "whether
you like it or not" -- exactly what he did say in 2008 about same-sex

Kleiman said many believe prohibition is the worst way to deal with
marijuana, but all the proposed initiatives clear the way for
"commercialization on the alcohol model, which is the second-worst

Advertising limits and state control of cultivation and sales would be
better, he said. Legalization eliminates the black market and lets
people do something they want to do, he said, but "that leaves us with
the drug-abuse problem, and at the moment there's nothing" that does
anything about that.
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MAP posted-by: Matt