Capitol Alert

Here’s why California is on the verge of legalizing pot

Californians are set to legalize recreational marijuana in Tuesday’s election, two decades after voters approved cannabis for medicinal purposes, according to a new poll.

Proposition 64, which has consistently led in surveys, would allow adults 21 and older to use the drug, possess 1 ounce and grow six plants.

A survey by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that 57 percent of likely voters intend to support the measure while 40 percent say they will vote no. Support is down slightly from the September poll, when the initiative backed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and largely financed by billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker led 60 percent to 31 percent, with the reminder undecided.


Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll, said Thursday that marijuana legalization “looks like it has enough” support to become law in California. A majority of those who already completed their ballots say they voted for it (56 percent to 40 percent).

Middle-aged voters and Latinos have come around after being highly opposed to a previous legalization measure, Proposition 19, in 2010, DiCamillo added. That initiative lost by seven points, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.

“A lot of the opposition has melted away,” he said.

Digging deeper into the shift, the final pre-election Field Poll for Proposition 19 had voters aged 40 to 49 turning against the measure. They currently back Proposition 64 by more than 2 to 1. Latinos, meantime favor the measure, 59 percent to 37 percent, whereas 55 percent of Latinos opposed Proposition 19 in the final survey.

Perhaps the largest movement has occurred regionally: Inland counties rebuffed the latest version of pot legalization by more than 20 points, while they are about evenly divided today.

Supporters, backed by more than $16 million in contributions, have pitched the measure as the smartest approach to address the failures of prohibition. They believe enforcement has been aimed disproportionately on communities of color, and argue young people are able to get the drug despite it being illegal.

Opponents, including law enforcement and the California Hospital Association, have raised just $1.6 million. They contend the initiative is being driven by profit-minded individuals and companies and assert that advertising rules are weak and will expose children to pot ads. They also argue it should have contained a legal limit for drivers.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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