Pot legalization initiative leads by 10 in CA

Allahpundit reviewed the two major races from the latest Survey USA poll in California, but the poll also included data on a referendum that may put California back in the forefront of drug policy.  Years ago, Californians passed one of the first medical-marijuana initiatives that created a market for the federally-banned substance as long as one could get a medical “referral” that claimed to treat symptoms at a doctor’s wide discretion.  Now Californians have a chance to end the masquerade and just legalize marijuana — and Survey USA shows the ballot measure leading by ten points:

Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana, and allow marijuana to be regulated and taxed in California, continues to be supported narrowly, passing today 50% to 40%, unchanged from 1 month ago. Ballot measures are difficult to poll; opposition to many ballot measures increases as election day approaches. Voter reaction to Proposition 19 can be expected to shift as both sides begin to advertise the pros and cons of passage. There is offsetting movement among demographic groups.

The demographics of this initiative may have some impact on the gubernatorial and Senate races, but it’s just as likely that the impact will be the other way around.  Republicans oppose the bill by 21 points, but independents support it by 20 points and Democrats by 30 points.  It has majority support from the two younger age demographics, surprisingly narrow in the 18-34 demo (52/43) and wider in the 35-49 group (57/33).  It also has plurality support in the two older age demos, 45/43 in each.

Older voters will almost certainly turn out in strong numbers in this election, while the one age group that one would assume to be passionate about legalization turns out to be diffident.  Assuming that opposition drives turnout for Prop 19, that’s probably good news for Carly Fiorina.  She wins all but the youngest age demo in this survey. If support drives turnout, Fiorina doesn’t get hurt and Whitman gets helped.  Fiorina’s widest lead in age demos is among 35-49 YOs, and Whitman does better with younger voters.  That assumes that the demos stay as is, which as Survey USA notes is a rather large assumption.

Will that ten point lead remain viable for Prop 19?  Having lived in California through the Prop 215 campaign in 1996, I recall the argument mainly centered — hypocritically, in my opinion — on pain relief for the hopelessly ill.  The arguments relied heavily on heartstring-tugging, emotional pleas to allow people to use marijuana to alleviate chronic and substantial pain, when anyone who read the bill knew that the lax regime created by Prop 215 would mean widespread availability for marijuana as a back door to de facto legalization.  That measure passed with an 11-point majority, or just about what we see in the Survey USA today poll now.

The big questions are these: Did voters pass 215 in 1996 under the delusion that they were creating a tightly-controlled system that allowed only the very ill to find relief?  Or was everyone in on the joke?  If it’s the latter, then Survey USA’s prediction will be accurate, and possibly even understating its support after 14 years of de facto legalization has produced few problems.  If it’s the former, this will be closer — but in California, they’ll probably pass it anyway.

And they should, if only for the waste of resources states and the federal government burn in enforcing the drug war on a non-toxic intoxicant that does less harm than alcohol overall.  If California wants to cut some of its budget — and it desperately needs to do so — this isn’t a panacea, but alleviating an expensive burden from law enforcement is one place to start.