Will California wait until 2016 to vote on legalizing marijuana? A poll released Thursday strongly suggests voters in the Golden State are ready to legalize it right now.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]The new Tulchin Research poll has support for legalizing marijuana at just under two-thirds (65%), with only 32% opposed. It shows majority support for legalization among every demographic except one -- Republican Party members. Even among Republicans, support for legalization (47%) trailed opposition (50%) by only three points.
And this was not a generic legalization question. The poll asked: "There may be a measure on the ballot in the future to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in California for adults. It would still be illegal for minors, there would be penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, and it could only be sold in state regulated stores. The measure would tax marijuana and generate an estimated one billion dollars a year to fund schools, public safety and other essential services and there would be annual audits to ensure the money is spent as intended. Based on this, would you support or oppose this proposal?"
Geographically, support was strongest in the Bay Area (73%), followed by San Diego (67%), Los Angeles County and the Central Valley at 65%, Sacramento/North (63%), the Los Angeles Area (59%), and the Inland Empire (58%).
Among racial groups, support was strongest among blacks (74%), followed by whites (69%) and Asians (68%), with Hispanics lagging at 53%. Both men (66%) and women (65%) strongly supported legalization. So did all age groups, with the lowest level of support being 54% among 40-49-year-olds.
"In sum, voters strongly support a marijuana legalization and regulation measure for adults that includes penalties for DUI and collects revenues to fund public services," Tulchin said. "Furthermore, such a reform is supported by nearly all demographic subgroups across the state."
The poll comes as one 2014 marijuana legalization initiative is in the signature-gathering phase and a second is awaiting approval of title and ballot summary at the state attorney general's office. The conventional wisdom among deep-pocketed drug reformers is that California should wait until 2016, when a presidential election year generates higher voter turnout, which in turn favors liberal voting groups, but poll numbers like these are going to increase the pressure to get something done next year.
The poll was conducted on behalf of the ACLU of California, which also announced that it is putting together a high-octane panel to study marijuana legalization for the next two years, implicitly precluding a 2014 effort.
The Tulchin Research poll was conducted doing live landline and cell phone interviews with 1,200 November 2016 voters between September 26 and October 6. The margin of error is +/-3.1%.
And then there were two. Proponents of a second 2014 marijuana legalization initiative filed the measure with the California secretary of state's office last Friday. An earlier 2014 legalization initiative has already entered the signature-gathering phase.
[image:1 align:right]The measure filed last Friday, the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act of 2014, would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana possession, cultivation, and sales. It would also allow adults to grow up to 100 square feet of marijuana each -- provided they have the permission of the property owner and the grow is fenced.
The measure explicitly protects the rights of medical marijuana users, stating that it "shall not affect the individual and group medical rights and protection afforded" under Proposition 215 and subsequent legislation.
It would create a California Cannabis Commission with enumerated powers to regulate and control commercial marijuana cultivation and sales. Commission members could not include people currently holding state or local elected office or people who have been involved with a marijuana business in the past two years. The commission must include an attorney, an accountant, a member of law enforcement, a small business owner, and a member of the public at large.
The initiative touts itself as the first "open source" California legalization initiative and was largely drafted through an online consultative process by veteran activists. It must now have its title and ballot summary approved by the state attorney general's office, which has 60 days to do so, and if approved, signature-gathering can then commence.
Under California initiative law, measures approved for signature-gathering then have 150 days to collect signatures. This year, they need 504,000 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.
The Hererite perennial California Cannabis Hemp Initiative, which would also legalize marijuana in the state, has already entered the signature-gathering phase and has until February to come up with sufficient signatures.
The conventional wisdom among initiative experts and marijuana reform backers is that the huge number of signatures required to make the ballot in California necessitates paid signature gatherers and a budget of at least a million dollars. And that's just to make the ballot. Actually winning an election would likely cost several million dollars more.
The conventional wisdom is also calling for California to hold off until the 2016 presidential year, when expected higher turnout is believed to boost prospects for victory. But some Californians clearly aren't waiting. The question is whether this will turn out to be a repeat of 2012, when multiple legalization initiatives sought to make the ballot, but, lacking funds and unity, none did.