The Battle of California: Marijuana Vote In 10 Days
Almost everyone watching the epochal Proposition 19 battle in California — the voter initiative that would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults, and allow its taxation by local governments — realizes that the implications and symbolic significance of the vote goes far beyond the baby steps included in the language of the measure.
What’s at stake? The people of the Golden State have a chance to stand up to the tired old orthodoxy of “Just Say No” and replace it with the “Just Say Now” of the marijuana movement.
At long last, voters have a chance to take a first step out of the cultural trance enforced upon the entire nation since cannabis prohibition began in 1937 — a chance to find a better way to deal with the marijuana question.
Predictably, the anti-pot forces have brought everything they have — mostly hyperbole, in other words — to the battle. To hear them tell it, California’s very future is at stake, and not only that but perhaps the fate of civilization as well. It’d be a lot easier to smile about it if these folks weren’t completely serious — as serious as they were a couple years ago in their successful campaign to make Prop 8 the law of the land in California, banning gay marriages.
And yes, one of the biggest anti-Prop 19 groups has pretty much the same people as ran one of the pro-Prop 8 groups that stunk up the election last time with their innuendoes, anti-gay bias and snidely ignorant talking points. This time pot’s the demon, instead of gay couples.
The news hasn’t all been encouraging this week for pot proponents, as at least two major polls show the anti-marijuana vote surging in the last days before the election.
But as pointed out by Yes On 19, the anti-marijuana stigma could be significantly throwing off live polling. After all, a lot of people are still uncomfortable telling strangers they are in favor of marijuana legalization.
Backing up this hypothesis is the huge divide between the level of support expressed for Prop 19 with two different methodologies — live interviews versus automated phone polling. Yes On 19 found that if an individual is responding only to a computer program, they are much more likely to express support for the initiative.
While recent live interviews showed 41 percent Yes and 46 percent No responses, automated interviews told a different story: 56 percent of respondents chose Yes with only 41 percent No.
“There is still a stigma in many communities attached to marijuana use which could make some voters embarrassed to tell a stranger over the phone they plan to vote for legalization,” said Jon Walker of Firedoglake.
Automatic interviews have consistently shown greater support for the initiative. SurveyUSA, using mostly automated interviews, recently found Prop 19 winning 48-44, while PPIC, using live interviews, had it losing 44-49.
This effect seems to be even more pronounced among certain groups, particularly young voters. In live interviews, voters under 30 support Prop 19 only 49-37. But in the automatic interviews, young voters support the measure by an overwhelming 73-22 margin.
“The ability to do a straight-up comparison of the results of automated versus live interview polling helps explain some of the wild discrepancies we’ve been seeing in Prop 19 polling of late,” Walker said. “The results provide very positive news for supporters of the measure, and if they are correct, Prop 19 will likely become law.”
“We’re confident that when Californians find themselves in the privacy of voting booths on November 2, they will vote to end decades of failed and harmful marijuana policies,” said Dan Newman, a political strategist working with the Yes On 19 campaign. “Very few people think the current policy is working.”
About the author: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor.