Whether it happens next year or in 2016, the numbers are pretty clear: California will eventually legalize weed.
That much can be read into a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. In a trend that mirrors national public opinion, more than half of all voters in the Golden State now want to make marijuana legal.
Legalization Is Under Way In California
The number currently stands at 52 percent, out of 1,703 Californians polled. When the results were narrowed to only likely voters – the people who will make the ultimate decision – the number who favor legalization climbs even higher, to 60 percent.
Just three years ago, in the months before California voters rejected legal pot at the ballot box, surveys showed just 45 percent supported the idea.
The poll is good news for medical marijuana in California, where new legalization efforts are already well under way. Proponents are currently gathering signatures for a 2014 ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana.
Lacking Some Support
That effort lacks the full support of the cannabis community, however. Many activists believe it’s best to wait until 2016, when presidential candidates will be on the ballot and more young voters will turn out.
“We need to take a breath – because we’re California, and we’re super complicated,” Amanda Reiman, California policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Sacramento Bee in February.
Surprising Marijuana Supporters
Still, support for legal pot is growing rapidly – especially, oddly enough, among white men. In fact, the groups that would seem most likely to back the idea, such as women and some minorities, show softer support.
Women, for example, back legalized pot by only 47 percent. Just 36 percent of Latinos are behind legalization, even though they’re arrested for pot offenses at much higher rates than whites.
African-Americans, on the other hand, strongly support legal marijuana – by 61 percent. Blacks are widely discriminated against for cannabis use, according to a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union: Nationwide, they’re four times more likely to be arrested for possession than are whites, even though both races smoke pot at the same rate.
If national trends are any indication, support for pot in California will only continue to grow, making passage likely in 2016, if not earlier. Even if they don’t legalize, the state’s voters are clear on one thing: They want the federal government to stay the hell away.
Across all political lines, respondents in the poll said they want the government to let California handle weed policy on its own. That went for 68 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of independents.