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A new poll finds growing support for a November ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana in California.
Sunday’s survey by the nonpartisan Field Poll on Prop 19, which will be on the state’s November ballot and would legalize marijuana and tax its production, distribution and sale, shows more voters warming to the measure, which is now leading 49 to 42 percent, with 9 percent undecided.
A Field Poll in July showed the measure trailing, 44 percent Yes to 48 percent No, reports Jim Miller of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
With less than six weeks to the election, the measure has widened its lead despite little visible campaigning by proponents and vocal opposition from influential law enforcement groups, every candidate for statewide office, and even both California Senators.
“(Proponents) are not doing much, but voters seem to be reconsidering and thinking that it’s not such a bad idea,” said Field Poll Director Mark CiCamillo. “But they’ve got to get above 50 percent. They’re close but not there. And there’s going to be a ‘No’ campaign.”
People’s attitudes toward Prop 19 heavily reflect whether they are living along the Pacific Coast (support) or inland (oppose), are Democrat (support) or Republican (oppose), are young (support) or old (oppose) and male (support) or female (narrowly oppose).
The measure is also riding a wave of rising acceptance of marijuana use in the Golden State for the past four decades.
In 1969, a mere 13 percent of voters supported legalizing marijuana, with far more preferring tougher penalties, according to an accompanying Field Poll report. Support for legalization has now reached almost a majority in the state, and majorities of voters of all types back the state’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1996.
Sunday’s poll of 599 likely voters was conducted Sept. 14-21 for The Press-Enterprise and other California media subscribers. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
Field Poll: A Digest Summarizing California Voter Opinions About Marijuana [PDF]
• Compared to Field Poll surveys conducted over the past 40 years, California voters now hold a much more permissive views about marijuana laws. In 1969 support for marijuana legalization included just 13 percent of Californians. A 1983 Field Poll found support for legalization at 30 percent. Now, half (50 percent) of the state’s registered voters favors its legalization.
• Three in four of California’s registered voters (74 percent) approve of the state’s medical marijuana law, which was enacted by voters in the November 1996 election. Support for the medical marijuana law spans all major demographic, geographic and political subgroups of the state’s registered voter population.
• Most voters (57 percent) think the medical marijuana law has made it easier for people to obtain marijuana, even among those without a medical need. This view is held most widely (79 percent) by those who oppose the medical marijuana law.
• Nearly half of the state’s registered voters (47 percent) report they have smoked marijuana at least once in their lives and one in twelve (8 percent) admit to smoking it in the past year. A 1983 Field Poll found that 40 percent of the state’s voters admitted to smoking marijuana, while 28 percent reported this in a 1975 survey.
• Majorities of voters in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area (60 percent) and in other parts of Northern California (57 percent) have tried marijuana. Fewer than half of voters in other parts of the state have toked.
• The most common reason for smoking marijuana by those who have smoked it in the past year is to relax (60 percent). Next most frequently cited is to relieve pain or treat a health condition (42 percent). Among former users who smoked marijuana more than a year ago, the top reason they say they smoked it was to socialize or have fun with their friends (56 percent).
– Eight in ten (80 percent) of those who smoked marijuana in the past year say they typically smoke it at home or at the home of a friend. Next most frequently mentioned is at parties (36 percent).
• A majority of registered voters (56%) say that one or more of their friends or relatives has smoked marijuana. Nearly all voters who themselves smoked marijuana in the past year (93 percent) say they know a friend or relative who also has used it. This drops to 63 percent among those who smoked marijuana more than one year ago and 46 percent among those who have never smoked.