A new Field poll- considered by many to be the most reliable poll in the state- has found that nearly half of the state’s voters favor the move to legalize marijuana in the state- 49% to the opposition’s 42%.
This is viewed as a somewhat dramatic shift by those conducting the poll, as a similar poll conducted by Field in July had fond those numbers reversed.
"The numbers have flipped (on Proposition 19) since our July poll," said Mark DiCamillo, the poll's director. "That's a major change in the direction of public feelings on legalizing marijuana."
The survey results being released today are especially meaningful since the first ballots for the Nov. 2 election will be cast in a little more than a week from now, starting Oct. 4.
In a July poll, 48 percent of those surveyed planned to vote against the ballot initiative, with 44 percent backing legalization.
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.
That hasn't kept California voters from paying attention to the race, however. The poll found that 84 percent had seen or heard about the effort to legalize marijuana. By contrast, fewer than 40 percent of the voters had heard anything about the other two ballot measures in the survey.
Nine percent of voters are undecided on Prop. 19, which DiCamillo said isn't much of a surprise.
"Everyone knows about it, and it isn't that complicated an issue," he added.
For supporters, the bump in the numbers shows that their message is getting through.
"Police, sheriffs and judges have been speaking out recently in support of Prop. 19's commonsense solution to control and tax marijuana like alcohol and tobacco - to allow police to focus on violent crime," said Dan Newman, a spokesman for the Yes on 19 campaign.
Opponents of the measure, who include a number of law-enforcement figures, are confident the numbers will change.
"Obviously, this is a volatile electorate, but that doesn't change the fact that no poll has shown (legalization supporters) with the 50 percent they need to win," said Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the No on 19 effort.
Things have not always looked so good for the Legalization of Marijuana effort in California.
A 1972 effort to legalize marijuana in the state, also Prop. 19, was steamrolled, collecting only a third of the votes.
More than 40 years of polling by Field shows just how dramatic the shift on marijuana has been. In 1969, just 13 percent of California adults wanted to legalize marijuana, while 49 percent called on the state to pass new, tougher laws against the drug.
By 1983, 30 percent of registered voters favored legalization, but 32 percent still wanted to crack down on users.
Now close to 50 percent of registered voters want marijuana legalized and only 14 percent want harsher laws.
A measure to allow for the medicinal usage of marijuana in 1996 (Prop 215) passed through the state, getting 56% of the vote.