A new University of California Berkeley poll shows 63.8 percent of voters support Proposition 64, California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which would allow those over 21 to discreetly grow up to six cannabis plants at home, possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and use it recreationally.
But weren’t those similar to the polling numbers right before a similar measure was defeated last time?
“I’m not saying this one is perfect, but my instinct tells me it’s likely gonna pass,” Roger Salazar told the Los Angeles Times. Salazar is a political consultant who worked to defeat legalization when it appeared on the California ballot in 2010. That measure lost 53.5% to 46.5%
This year Republicans support Prop.64 at a rate of 53 to 47. Last year Republicans opposed legalization by 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent. And it should be noted that this year, a controversial gun control item (which limits ammunition sales and magazine size) will also appear on the ballot, likely driving out Right-wingers.
But at least fewer Republicans now actually oppose legalizing recreational marijuana: this time, 53 percent of Republicans oppose legalization compared to 61.6 percent last year, Berkeley reports.
Nearly 74 percent of Democrats and 62.2 percent of independents also support the measure.
Support for legalization was highest among blacks (71.9 percent) and Latinos (69.3 percent), and lowest among Asian-Americans (57.7 percent). In terms of age, 18- to 24-year-olds are the highest supporters of Prop. 64, the lowest support comes from those over 65.
Perhaps the difference this time in the first state to legalize medical marijuana a decade ago can be found by following the money. The pro-legalization movement coffer bottom line far outnumbers the anti-Prop 64 movement: $6.5 million up against a paltry $185,870 (mostly contributed by law enforcement and prison agencies).
But more interesting dollar figures arrive in the estimated tax revenue which would be generated by legalization.
Prop. 64 would allow California to collect a 15% state excise tax on cultivation of the plant in addition to whatever taxes cities and counties see fit to levy, fattening up the California Marijuana Tax Fund.
Those funds are slated to go almost exclusively to kids, including substance abuse education. Some dollars will go to cleaning up the environmental messes left behind by illegal grows. Still more will fund programs to reduce the nuisances potentially created by legal weed, such as impaired driving.
Perhaps more important than the potential billions in revenue generated by Prop.64, and the prediction of drastically lower pot prices, is the one element that gets most social activists excited: reduced sentencing.
If the measure passes, the punishment for selling recreational pot will transform from a maximum of four years behind bars to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Judges will also be empowered to resentence people in jail for illegally growing marijuana.
Counties and cities will retain the authority to regulate marijuana as they wish, but they could not prevent people from growing cannabis and hemp at home, or transporting it across municipal lines.
Perhaps a little prematurely, observers from main street to the state capitol are expected to see Prop.64 pass.
“There isn’t any secret plan to create a ‘green rush,’” Nate Bradley, a former small-town cop who founded the California Cannabis Industry Assn. told the LA Times. “The reality is, the green rush is already here.”