Poll: Californians support keeping marijuana illegal

Despite a push by groups to legalize marijuana, about half of Californians want the drug to remain illegal, a new Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research poll finds.


The survey found 52 percent of respondents wanted to keep marijuana illegal, while 38 percent of those surveyed support legalization.


The Poll surveyed 750 likely primary voters between Oct. 26 and Oct. 28. The survey has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.


The numbers vary from a slightly different question on the issue asked earlier by the Field Poll. In that April 30 poll, the Field Poll asked a question about legalizing and taxing marijuana in the context of the state’s ongoing budget crisis. In that survey, 56 percent of the respondents said they supported “legalizing marijuana for recreational use and tax(ing) its proceeds.”


Poll director Adam Probolsky said it is not surprising that the new survey received different results from the Field Poll.  “By saying there is a chance to help solve the budget crisis, you’d push some people toward making it legal," he said. "It makes it more palatable to people. If we had asked the same question, and said some studies show we’d have 10,000 more highway deaths, you’d push it the other way.”


Probolsky noted that the Capitol Weekly survey was taken of likely June primary voters, which tend to be a smaller and more conservative group than general election voters, or all registerd voters. The Field Poll surveyed registered voters.


Marijuana legalization has been in the news in recently. Last week, the Assembly Public Safety Committee held an informational hearing about the benefits and draw backs of legalizing marijuana. A bill to do just that has been introduced by San Francisco Democrat Tom Ammiano.


Sponsors of a ballot measure to legalize marijuana are currently gathering signatures to put the issue before voters. It is still unclear whether the measure will be on the June 2010 or November 2010 ballot.


The survey results may not accurately predict the outcome of an initiative campaign, said Probolsky. “This doesn’t test the push messages – closing the state  budget gap versus the public safety messages,” he said. “You need to test half a dozen of those pros and cons to see where the initiative lies.”


Among survey respondents, decline-to-state voters were most likely to support legalization. Nearly 48 percent of DTS voters support legalization, while it is backed by 45 percent of Democrats and just 25 percent of Republicans who responded to the survey.


Likely primary voters 65 and older were most likely to oppose legalization, with 56 percent of them saying they want the state prohibition to continue. But the number did not vary much among young voters. Among respondents 18-34, 55 percent said they supported keeping marijuana illegal.


Even if marijuana is legalized in California, it would still be illegal under federal law. But there are signs that attitudes about marijuana are changing in Washington as well. Last month, the Obama administration said it would not prosecute users and distributors of medical marijuana if they were abiding by state law. The policy is a departure from Clinton and Bush-era Justice Department approaches to medical marijuana.


Currently, 14 states have medical marijuana laws on the books.

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