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Legalized Marijuana in California: Polls Now Show a Close Call

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A landmark California initiative that would legalize marijuana and allow local governments to tax drug proceeds is coming under fire from many sides these days, including some advocates of medical marijuana use.
Despite leading in three of four public opinion surveys, the fate of Proposition 19 on the November ballot remains up in the air. The initiative, billed by its advocates as a "common sense" approach to marijuana control, appeared to be sailing to victory in late September when the venerable Field Poll found it leading by 7 percentage points among likely voters. Since then, however, Proposition 19 has experienced a series of setbacks -- last week a survey by Reuters/Ipsos, with a much smaller sampling than the Field Poll, found the initiative trailing.
Proposition 19 would permit any Californian who is 21 or over to grow marijuana for his personal use. It would also, more controversially, permit California's 478 cities and 58 counties to set their own rules on regulation, taxing, and retail sales of marijuana, creating what even some proponents of legalized pot say is likely to be a crazy quilt of new regulations. Nine California cities have advisory measures on the November ballot, seeking voter guidance on the taxation rates that should be imposed for marijuana sales.
Proposition 19 may have lost ground on Sept. 30 when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that, beginning Jan. 1, will reduce possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to an infraction equivalent to a traffic ticket, punishable only by a fine. This development would in other years have been cheered by advocates of legal marijuana. Instead, these advocates point out -- accurately-- that the measure was approved by the Legislature in order to head off Proposition 19. Even so, Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance that is promoting Proposition 19, acknowledged that the new law is a significant reform. Opponents of the ballot initiative, including Schwarzenegger, hope it is significant enough to derail Proposition 19.
This week Proposition 19 encountered two new setbacks. The first was a statement from George Mull, president of the California Cannabis Association, saying that the initiative is so poorly designed that it poses a threat to medical users of marijuana. California voters in 1996 legalized the sale and use of the drug for medical purposes with a doctor's prescription. Because Proposition 19 would allow localities to ban marijuana as well as tax it, medical marijuana dispensaries might be outlawed in some jurisdictions, Mull said.
A day after this statement, the Rand Corp., a nonpartisan research institute based in Santa Monica, issued a study which said that Proposition 19 would do little to curtail the violent Mexican drug cartels that smuggle marijuana across the border.
The view that Proposition 19 would curb drug smuggling has been a principal argument of proponents. Gutwillig maintains that the initiative would "deal a major blow to criminal syndicates on both sides of the border." But Beau Kimmel, co-director of Rand's Drug Policy Research Center, said that legal marijuana from California would heavily impact the Mexican cartels only if the drug is sold nationwide. "It's very hard to imagine that the feds would sit idly by and just let California marijuana dominate the country," Kimmel said.
Indeed, it is widely believed by local law enforcement officers that the federal government will challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 19 if it passes as a violation of federal law. The Justice Department under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama has tacitly allowed dispensing of marijuana for medical use, although this, too, violates federal statutes.
Proposition 19 is also coming under fire on health issues. Opponents of the measure generally concede that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol but say that there are nonetheless health risks associated with the drug. Studies have shown that about 9 percent of marijuana users become addicted compared to 15 percent of alcohol users; in a recent survey more than two thirds of the members of the California Society of Addiction Medicine said they expect marijuana addiction to increase if the drug is fully legalized.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Itai Danovitch of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said that marijuana "does not cause dramatic physical dependence but can lead to substantial problems in education, work, and relationships." He called for applying revenues from legalization of marijuana "toward any problems that arise from its increased use." Proposition 19 makes no such allocation. It also contains no standard for testing when marijuana use has been excessive, such as the blood-alcohol test used for drivers who are suspected of being under the influence.
Whether any of these concerns will have an impact on the voters remains a matter of conjecture. Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, said in an interview that support for Proposition 19 reflects California's increasing tolerant culture and that its constituency is similar in composition to the opponents of Proposition 8, a 2008 initiative that banned gay marriage. (Proposition 8 won narrowly but was struck down by a federal court, and is now under appeal.)
"It took a massive television advertising campaign to pass Proposition 8; I don't see any similar advertising against Proposition 19," DiCamillo said.
Nor is there likely to be since opponents are under-funded and reliant on a public education campaign led by law enforcement and public figures such as Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who signed the ballot argument against Proposition 19. The initiative has been bankrolled by Richard Lee of Oakland, who operates a profitable medical marijuana dispensary and pot-growing nursery. Lee donated $1.5 million to qualify Proposition 19 for the ballot.
The Field Poll was founded by Mervin Field, still active in the firm at 88, and has been polling on California issues since 1945. Its findings show that Californians have become increasingly permissive on a variety of social issues, including marijuana use. When Field first asked the question about legalization of marijuana in 1969, only 13 percent favored it while 49 percent of voters wanted the state to pass new tough laws against the drug.
Intriguing and contradictory demographics come into play in analyzing the prospects of Proposition 19. California electorates in midterm balloting are invariably whiter and older than the electorates in presidential election years. That's a principal reason why Democrats have carried the state in the last five presidential elections while electing only one governor during this period. But the Field Poll shows that "older and whiter" cuts both ways on Prop. 19. Older voters are the ones most opposed to marijuana legalization. On the other hand, whites as a group favor legalization more than do Latinos, African Americans, or Asians.
DiCamillo believes that Proposition 19 may slightly increase the turnout of voters under 30, the constituency most in favor of legalization. These voters were 9 percent of the electorate in the last gubernatorial race in 2006 and 13 percent of the electorate when Obama was elected in 2008. DiCamillo expects turnout of these youngest voters to be right in the middle this time, 11 percent of the electorate.
Some Democrats have speculated that a larger turnout of the youngest cohort of voters will also boost the chances of Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, in his tight race against Republican opponent Meg Whitman. DiCamillo sees no evidence of this. Bill Carrick, a respected Democratic consultant, thinks Proposition 19 is at most a tiny factor in the gubernatorial race, perhaps slightly increasing turnout on college campuses. Both Brown and Whitman oppose Proposition 19.
Whatever happens at the polls, advocates of legal marijuana can at least take comfort from the long-term trend in California. Indeed, with the new law making marijuana the equivalent of a traffic ticket, it might be said that they have mostly won their battle no matter what the voters decide on Proposition 19.

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We obviosly need to legalize pot,dope,weed that way the american consumption would sky rocket,this action should calm everything down on the mexican border lol,lets take a 10 billion dollar a year profit and make it a 100 billion dollar a year profit by legalizing it, thats exactly what michigan and new jersey are looking to do right now! "add to the demand and the problem" who's next? ohio? now i don't smoke the stuff but it seems to me if people were allowed to grow their own at home for their own use we would eliminate cartels and crime but the gov. would never allow that because of the tax revenue loss! when they should look at the financial savings by taking the crime out of it how many people are in jail for pot and how much do we spend on court costs to prosecute pot related crimes?i hope a little common sence can be applied here.

December 09 2010 at 7:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why the Hell"O cant I not reply to a persons post. This is getting frustrating. This is Directed @ KR: Two things that ABSOLUTELTY POSITIVELY irk my pissy sh, err, rather hit a nerve.. #1. I've already mentioned. That people like GODS MESSENGER claiming such things as "DUDE, I drive SO much BETTER when I'm HIGH as a KITE DUDE. HONESTLY BRAH, I DO because when I'm stoned like that I'M MUCH more attentive, because ultimately I'm MUCH MUCH more paranoid as well. Ya'KNOW DUDE? BLAH!!! #2. Then ppl like KR who clain that weeds not a "drug" (gasp), it's a herb/plant/ grown from the ground HAHA. UM, OK YEAH KR. IF you want to think of it thataway, well, its fine by me. Hmm, lets see here. PEYOTES a herb/plant/grown in the ground. Plus theres also the plant/flower from which HERION/MORPHINE/basically ALL NARCOTICS come from. This plant (AKA:Poppy) also happens to grow from the ground. "Poppies, Poppies will makes them sleeeeeeeeep" (FYI: Quoted by the wicked witch in The Wizard of OZ). Finally, theres the coco plant from which COCAINE can be produced. In you Opinion should we be legalizing HERION, MORPHINE, PEYOTE, and COCAINE as well? Simply because it's grown from the ground? ER, YAH. See, to me thats comical. In other words NON-Sensical at all. #3. I have yet to read a reply?comment like this thus far but I'm certain it's in here somewhere. How about people who claim that alcohol or ciggs (for example)arent "drugs" because they're "legal". That to me is comical as well.

November 07 2010 at 3:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Look sorry GODS MESSENGER. You HONESTLY did TRUELY have me on your side n thumbing up ALL of your posts. That is till now. How DAR you, you have SOME NERVE, to be actually CONDONING DRIVING while under the influence of marijuana. I've heard that BS time n time again "blahblah-high people drive more cautiously blah blah" and it fooking disgusts me!! I HAD RESPECTED you n your replies. But then you had to go n say something just outright STOOPID like that. BRILLIANT! FOR the LOVE of GOD and all that is HOLEY (especially considering your sn) did you even read "MYERS" post? BTW: Perry: I'm sorry about your loss. However, as already stated by other ppl I dont necessarily think that its right to be pointing the finger @ weed. Also, the ONE and ONLY REASON WHY the MEDIA has a hay day on "Drunk Driving" as opposed to driving while high is because theres no device out there to measure the levels of THC in a persons body like there is w/alcohol (BA's). A blood test or UA can confirm whether of not theres THC in a persons system. What they cant confirm is when EXACTLY the marijuana was puffeded. In other words PERRY, w/out witness statements from the party there would be no way the court prove that the driver of the van puffed that night. Pot stays in your system A LONG LONG TIME. AnyhOO, GODS MESSENGER: Ive never had to nor wanted to "report a comment. What if a kid slips in here accidently n reads you OH SO GENIOUS N BRILLIANT post about driving when stoned eh'? I've no choice............

November 07 2010 at 2:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Having trouble commenting directly to I'll do it this way.. CUTIE: I'd take the reek of pot ANYDAY over the reek of ciggs. ROB: ^5 Thumbs up! Although, Alcohol is used in meds all the time. Not just RX meds either. OTC ones too. I do believe that alcohol was also used quite some time ago as a pain killer? Along with a piece of leather/or block of wood to bite down on?

November 07 2010 at 2:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

There are more rehabs in the LA area than in the rest of America combined. We see the results with celebrities who get high real young then spend the rest of their lives getting clean. Pot changes mental abilities. There is evidence that it reduces sperm counts and impairs the newborn. People need to ask themselves what is it about my life that I need to drink, smoke or just get high. Cigarette smoke was bad enough can you imagine the reek of pot?????

October 23 2010 at 10:23 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

What are some of the immediate effects of smoking marijuana? Some immediate physical effects of marijuana include a faster heartbeat and pulse rate, bloodshot eyes, and a dry mouth and throat. No scientific evidence indicates that marijuana improves hearing, eyesight, and skin sensitivity. Studies of marijuana's mental effects show that the drug can impair or reduce short-term memory, alter sense of time, and reduce ability to do things which require concentration, swift reactions, and coordination, such as driving a car or operating machinery. Are there any other adverse reactions to marijuana? A common bad reaction to marijuana is the "acute panic anxiety reaction." People describe this reaction as an extreme fear of "losing control," which causes panic. The symptoms usually disappear in a few hours.

October 23 2010 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dc walker's comment

Cutie, your argument is useless and counters the sane reality of the situation. Unless, the gov't outlaws liquor again, the legalization of pot is the only course of action in a country full of hypocrits. You seem to have accidently forgotten to include the many detriments from the use of alcohol? To suggest that people shouldn't use either is obviously unrealistic and counter productive. If I had a choice between driving on a road full of drunk drivers as opposed to stoned drivers, I would take the stoned drivers 100 out of 100 times and this fact alone should validate that as long as alcohol is legal, pot must be legalized as well. You can't punish one and not the other. Even with the much stronger hydroponic pot available, I can state that alcohol is much more dangerous. Functioning in a black out from alcohol is a scary thought! Staggering and slurred speech does not occur with pot. The people, who have gone through the prison system and are tying up the courts over pot charges is ludicrous, unwarranted, and an unnecessary strain on gov't spending. You also take power away from drug lords, not to mention the creation of revenue from taxes that are being missed out on. I don't recall liquor being used for medical purposes as is the case with pot. Your argument doesn't hold water as long as liquor is part of the equation and frankly pot has more benefits than alcohol, which has no benefits whatsoever! The money saved in the court and prison system and the money that can be earned on taxes far outweighs keeping pot illegal and it is as simple as that!

October 28 2010 at 8:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I believe that if mary jane is made legal throughout the united states, not only will america start to become the home of the free again but it will also be our ace in the hole to get the U.S.A. out of a "tight spot". Plus we will become a lot more chill and stop fighting all the time, think about it, whens the last time you herd Amsterdam getting into a war............ Don't worry I'll wait.

October 18 2010 at 3:13 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

It is not a victory if prop 19 does not pass. jobs will still drug test and disallow responsible smokers from getting jobs unless they stop smoking. It may seem like a small stupid thing, but it should not have to be that way. Just because someone uses marijuana does not mean they are going to use it on the job.

October 17 2010 at 4:27 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

It's about time this is happening. The war on drugs in general is a failed experiment, but the war on marijuana is idiocy of the highest order. Let's let cops get back to fighting real crime. Please register to vote if you haven't yet!

October 16 2010 at 6:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If pot held the answers to California's problems, they would have been solved decades ago. This stuff has been used to justify thousands upon thousands of jobs at taxpayer expense to chase users, prosecute them, defend them, judge them, jail them, "rehabilitate" them, parole them, then chase 'em again. Too many employees are feeding comfortably at the public trough for pot to be legalized. As for the objective good or harm weed does, who knows? It probably wouldn't do FLOTUS's anti-obesity campaign much good given the activity level and junk food consumption rate of the potheads I've known.

October 16 2010 at 8:00 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply


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