CALIFORNIA: In a first for California, a majority of voters now favors legalization of marijuana, and most want pot regulated like alcohol, according to Field Poll results released Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The poll began asking about marijuana decriminalization in 1969. A clear majority of respondents never favored it until now. In 1969, 75 percent of Californians wanted the state’s marijuana laws strictly enforced, or even toughened.
The nonpartisan poll conducted last week for The Press-Enterprise and other California media subscribers showed 55 percent now favor legalization. The split among those was 47 percent for legalizing it with age and other controls similar to alcohol laws, while 8 percent said it should be legalized so anyone could purchase it.
Just 31 percent now support strict enforcement of current laws or passing tougher ones. Another 12 percent wants to keep the present ban but ease penalties and 2 percent had no opinion.
Today’s Field Poll also showed that when respondents were read a summary of a proposed initiative in California to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use, 56 percent said they would support it and 39 percent said they would be opposed. Five percent were undecided.
“You have just had a whole new reevaluation,” of marijuana, Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo said in a telephone interview. “What is different is that in 1969, there was a much more prevalent view that marijuana would lead to harder drugs and addiction.”
But since then, respondents have removed marijuana from consideration with harder drugs, he said.
“That is probably the biggest single shift in attitudes toward marijuana,” DiCamillo said.
The Field Poll conclusion reflects a national Gallup Poll released late in October. It also found for the first time that 58 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana.
“These different polls are showing the same thing,” said Lanny Swerdlow, a longtime Inland advocate for marijuana legalization. Swerdlow operated a medical marijuana clinic in Riverside that was closed in May after the California Supreme Court upheld a Riverside law that allowed local governments to ban dispensaries.
“It’s a number of different things,” Swerdlow said of the poll results favoring legalization. “One was the advent of medical marijuana. It has some very beneficial uses and the government has lied about its dangers. People are beginning to see through that.”