According to a Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Tuesday, the California Tax and Regulate Cannabis initiative has the support of 49% of voters, while 41% are opposed, and 10% are undecided. The figures are in line with other recent polls. Two weeks ago, an internal campaign poll had support at 51% and another public opinion poll had it at 49%.
The bad news for initiative supporters in the latest poll is that it needs 50% plus one vote to win, and it isn't there yet. The good news, however, is that the initiative only needs to pick up one out of five of those undecided voters to go over the top.
Or, as Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh institute of politics put it: "The good news for proponents is that they are starting off with a decent lead. The good news for the opposition is that initiatives that start off at less than 50% in the polls usually have a hard time."
The poll also questioned voters about their marijuana use histories, finding that 37% had tried pot and 11% had smoked it within the last year. Not surprisingly, those who had smoked within the last year favored the initiative by more than four-to-one (82%).
This latest poll, like previous ones, points to women, especially married women, as a key demographic. While men favor the initiative, women are split, and among married women, 49% oppose the initiative while 40% are in favor.
Pollsters also asked about some of the key arguments made by supporters and opponents of the initiative. When asked whether they thought legalization of marijuana could raise a billion dollars in revenue, 42% said yes, while 38% said that figure was wildly exaggerated. Voters in Los Angeles, where dispensaries spread like wildfire in the last half of the last decade, were most likely to believe that such revenues could be generated.
When asked whether legalizing marijuana would worsen social problems, voters were similarly split, although such concerns especially resonated with those who oppose the initiative. Of that group, 83% think freeing the weed would increase crime and teen marijuana use. Fifty-five percent of married women also think that.
Attitudes toward legalization diverge sharply by age, with support much higher among younger voters. A 52% majority of voters 65 and older oppose legalization. Among voters between 45 and 64, 49% support it. But among those 30 to 44, 53% are in favor, and that rises to 61% among those 18 to 29.
The next five months are going to be very interesting. But if the tax and regulate initiative is to emerge victorious at the polls come November, it has its work cut out for it. And it looks very much like the path to victory is going to have to go through Mom.