Yet another poll brings good news for pot smokers, drug policy reformers, civil libertarians and people of common sense throughout California.
For the second time this fall, a majority of the state’s residents said they back legal weed. The support is strong enough legalization could happen sooner than expected – as early as November 2014.
“Debating about whether to legalize now is pointless, because we’re going to,” said Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor and drug policy expert at the University of California Los Angeles. “The smart debate is about how we’ll do it.”
The Field Poll results, released Dec. 10, show 55 percent of California residents want to legalize weed for all purposes. Forty-seven percent want to regulate it like alcohol, with controls for age and other concerns, while 8 percent want to make it available to everyone.
This was the first time in the survey’s 44 years that a majority of residents said they want marijuana legalized. When it was first taken, in 1969, just 13 percent said the same.
The findings confirm the results of a September poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, which found 52 percent of Californians favor legalization. More significantly, that poll found 60 percent of likely voters support legal pot.
Perhaps most significant of all, the Field Poll found a majority of Californians support an effort to legalize in 2014. That campaign was initially given little hope of success, but it appears likely now that it will pass – as long as supporters turn out to vote.
“It’s certainly a generational phenomenon,” said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo, noting that far more young people (64 percent of 18-to-49-year-olds) favor legalization than older residents (47 percent of those over 65). Older voters tend to turn out more heavily than young.
But even senior support for legal green is much higher than it has ever been.
There are currently four competing ballot initiatives, three for 2014, the other for 2016. The first three are gathering signatures to get on the ballot, while the fourth is still in the early research and planning stage.
Many leading marijuana advocates and civil libertarians, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the ACLU, begged off the 2014 effort. The state rejected legal weed just three years ago, and they said voters needed more time to change their minds.
That may now be a moot argument. With a majority already supporting legalization in 2014, advocates may need to get involved now if they want to have a voice in the process.