Most Californians want legal weed

Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee funded the campaign to legalize marijuana, which will be on the November ballot.

By Brady Welch

Puff, puff, pass on the good news. A new poll finds that a majority of California voters—51 percent—support the fall ballot measure to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for even strictly recreational uses (40 percent opposed it). And support rises a point when respondents are asked about its various benefits.

According to the poll by Oakland-based firm EMC, 69 percent agree that the initiative “will raise needed tax revenue,” arguably its largest selling point. Supporting this notion of turning green into more green, the state's tax regulator, the Board of Equalization, issued a study last summer noting that taxing pot could bring in an estimated $1.4 billion to state and local governments' starved coffers.

“We only need fifty plus one,” Dale Sky Clare, Executive Chancellor of Oaksterdam University, told us referring to the percentage needed to pass the initiative. “We're excited. Even with conservative questions, the poll numbers still show support.”

Six in 10 voters believe the initiative “will save the state money.” This is in line with the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's office estimation of “savings of several tens of millions of dollars annually... on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders,” according to a report on its website. Even a number of state law enforcement figures have come out in support of the initiative, including Oakland City Attorney John Russo.

“Folks are becoming frustrated with the politics of pure symbols,” Russo told us, referring to the failed War on Drugs. “Marijuana is widespread among otherwise law-abiding people, and it's viewed by people morally as no different from alcohol. We should stop pretending.”

Other polls have been floating around recently, some slightly higher in one direction or the other, but overall, the numbers suggest the political winds are moving in the right direction. More than three in four voters (77 percent) have heard of the initiative, according to EMC, and awareness is particularly high among newer voters, young folks, and independents—exactly the kind of people who voted for change in 2008, and exactly the kind of voters that will move California, and the country, into a greener (in more ways than one) and brighter future.

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