California Voter Support Is Strong

California voters will decide Nov. 8 whether they want to legalize marijuana statewide. So far, all signs point to yes.

The odds got even better in September, with the release of a new poll showing continued support for legalization as Election Day approaches. The poll, released Sept. 13 by USC Dornsife and the Los Angeles Times, shows voter backing for full cannabis reform remains close to 60 percent.

Adult Use of Marijuana Act

The November ballot will contain a proposal known as Proposition 64 that would legalize purchase, possession, and use of marijuana for recreation. Also called the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, Prop. 64 would make it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of pot and grow up to six plants at home.

The ballot initiative would also create regulations for a new legal marijuana industry and impose two special taxes on recreational cannabis: a 15 percent sales tax and a wholesale cultivation levy of $9.25 per ounce of bud and $2.75 per ounce of trim.

58 percent support Prop. 64

Pollsters questioned 1,879 California voters, a relatively large sample size that suggests the results are reliable. A full 58 percent said they would vote for Prop. 64, compared to just 34 percent who said they plan to vote no. Eight percent said they don’t yet know which way they’ll vote.

Samples of medical marijuana are displayed at Canna Care in Sacramento, Calif. The evangelical medical marijuna supplier is in a public battle with the IRS over a nearly $900,000 tax penalty. The dispensary is shown in August 2009. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/MCT)
Samples of medical marijuana are displayed at Canna Care in Sacramento, California.

As has always been the case, support for legalization is strongest among young voters, with 67 percent saying they back reform. Democrats are similarly supportive, with 68 percent in favor, but even a large majority of California Republicans, 56 percent, agree that prohibition should end.

Support for legalization is also stronger among men: 62 percent plan to vote yes, compared to 55 percent of women. Only two groups, Asian Americans and older voters, don’t favor Prop. 64 (50 percent of seniors and 47 percent of Asian Americans back the idea).

59 percent of California voters want legal marijuana.
59 percent of California voters want legal marijuana.

The poll is more good news for Prop. 64 advocates, a group led by tech billionaire and one-time Facebook president Sean Parker. He and his fellow activists have raised millions of dollars to push the campaign to November, while opponents have struggled to raise even a fraction of that.

California’s progressive culture

“It’s very clear that Californians’ attitudes have changed dramatically on this issue over the last several years,” said pollster Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “The opposition is going to have to identify a fairly sizable source of campaign funding if this initiative is to be close.”

Problems in California for medical marijuanaPrevious attempts to legalize marijuana in the Golden State failed, once in 2010 and again in 2014. The first effort was rejected at the polls, while four years later, advocates couldn’t even raise enough money to put a cannabis vote on the ballot.

But observers widely agree this year is different. Polls almost universally show strong voter support for Prop. 64, and the tide of history has turned decisively against marijuana prohibition elsewhere in the United States.

Other states poised to legalize

Several other states, including Nevada, Arizona, and Massachusetts, will vote on legalization in November, but California is easily the most important. It’s the most populous state in the union, it already has a thriving medical cannabis market with stringent new regulations, and the state badly needs more tax dollars.

That doesn’t mean voters there are especially enthusiastic about legalizing pot, however. The poll found that only 16 percent consider Prop. 64 the most exciting contest of the election season, versus 56 percent who cited the presidential race.

Tell us: Are you more excited about the vote to legalize marijuana in California or the presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Leave a comment below.

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