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Major shift: California leans toward marijuana legalization

By John Byrne
Sunday, October 10, 2010 9:21 EDT
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A new Field Poll highlighted Sunday in The San Francisco Chronicle (whose site has crashed as of this writing) suggests that the tide has turned in favor of medical marijuana legalization.

“In a dramatic shift of sentiment, nearly half of California’s likely voters now want to legalize marijuana use in the state, according to a new Field Poll,” the site’s authors write.

“The numbers have flipped (on Proposition 19) since our July poll,” Mark DiCamillo, the poll’s director, told the Chronicle. “That’s a major change in the direction of public feelings on legalizing marijuana.”

“Forty-nine percent of those likely voters now support Prop. 19, with 42 percent opposed,” the poll highlighted Sunday said.” In a July poll, 48 percent of those surveyed planned to vote against the ballot initiative, with 44 percent backing legalization.”

But the future is hazy, with a recent Reuters poll highlighted just last week in the Christian Science Monitor showing opposition to the measure.

After weeks of riding a wave of positive poll results, supporters of Proposition 19 were handed a head-scratcher on Tuesday when a Reuters/lpsos poll found 53 percent of California voters opposed to the measure. The same polling company found voters nearly deadlocked on the issue in June. Also troubling for the “Yes on 19″ side are media reports that it is out of money.

Opponents of marijuana legalization say the poll shows that Californians are turning against Prop. 19 as they learn more about it. Prop. 19 backers are painting the poll as an anomaly.

Future polls should offer more insight into whether the Reuters/Ipsos poll is off base or whether it is picking up a shift in the race.

“Either this poll is way off, or they are picking up something that no one else has so far,” says Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization that backs legalizing and regulating marijuana.

The reversal came despite a total absence of paid advertising for either side. Neither supporters nor opponents of the measure have raised much money for the Prop. 19 campaign, so far relying on word-of-mouth and media coverage to get their stories out.

Recent Field Polls also show the state’s voters discouraged about the state’s economy and economic future.

 
 
 
 
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