Latest CBS News Polls Finds Majority Of Western Voters, Californians, Back Marijuana Legalization

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A majority of west coast voters, and Californians specifically, believe that the adult use of marijuana should be legal, according to the results of a pair of polls conducted on behalf of CBS News.

Fifty-six percent of Californians believe that "the state of California (should) legalize the use of marijuana," according to a SurveyUSA poll of 500 adults conducted for CBS. The survey results come less than a month after state election officials certified the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 for the November ballot.

The measure would allow adults 21 years or older to possess, share or transport up to one ounce of cannabis for personal consumption, and/or cultivate the plant in an area of not more than twenty-five square feet per private residence. It would also permit local governments the option to authorize the retail sale of marijuana and/or commercial cultivation of cannabis to adults and to impose taxes on such sales. Personal marijuana cultivation or not-for-profit sales of marijuana would not be taxed under the measure, nor would it amend any aspect of the California Health and Safety code pertaining to the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Among poll respondents, support for the proposal was strongest among males (65 percent), "liberals" (77 percent), and those between the ages of 18 and 34 (74 percent). Support was weakest among self-identified "conservatives" (39 percent) and those 65 years of age or older (39 percent).

In a separate national CBS poll of 858 adults, 55 percent of respondents residing in the west coast said that they back legalization, and only 41 percent oppose the idea.

Nationwide, the poll reported that 44 percent of Americans favor legalizing the use of cannabis, and 51 percent oppose it. Among respondents in the northeast, 44 percent said that they back legalization, versus 40 percent in the south and only 36 percent in the Midwest.

A majority of those Americans under age 35 said that they support legalization. Those respondents over age 65 expressed the strongest opposition to legalization (61 percent).

A previous poll by Zogby International reported that 58 percent of west coast voters believe that cannabis should be "taxed and legally regulated like alcohol and cigarettes."

In December, a national poll of 1,004 likely voters by Angus Reid reported for the first time that just over half of all Americans endorse marijuana legalization.

By contrast, a separate poll published this week by the Associated Press and CNBC reported that 55 percent of Americans opposed the "complete legalization of the use of marijuana for any purpose." However, 56 percent of respondents also stated that they believed that “the regulations on marijuana (should) be the same … or less strict … (than) those for alcohol.”

Paul Armentano [send him mail] is the deputy director of NORML and the NORML Foundation. He is also the co-author of the new book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink? (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009).

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