One question that jumped to mind in reading the latest two major independent polls was why the attention on the November marijuana initiative?
The initiative to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana was tested in both the Public Policy Institute poll and the USC/LA Times poll. PPIC found the marijuana measure near dead even at 49% Yes; 48% No. The USC/LA Times poll had the Yes side slightly ahead, 49% to 41%.
But this is a ballot measure that will be decided months from now. With a June primary staring voters in the face the pollsters found an interest in a measure an election away. The marijuana measure will not be the only initiative on the November ballot. There likely will be a cornucopia of issues for the voters to decide.
Other measures will have major impact on the way the state is governed, or how the budget problem might be affected. There will be economic issues such as suspending the greenhouse gases law; fiscal issues such as stopping corporate tax changes and requiring a two-thirds vote for fees; major governance changes including a 50% vote on the budget, altering legislative term limits, and extending new redistricting rules to congress.
Yet, with all these major impact measures on the ballot, marijuana law gets the nod from pollsters. True, if the marijuana law passes, there would be effect on the budget and the criminal justice system, so the debate over the initiative will be important. However, I find it interesting that two major polls decided to focus on this measure so early.
One justification is that the marijuana measure has already qualified for the ballot, while others are still counting signatures. But, the congressional redistricting initiative and controversial water bond measure also are set for November.
The marijuana issue has the appealing attribute of being a cultural milestone. Californians led the way more than a decade ago with approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Legalizing marijuana in the Golden State would reverberate across state lines.
Of course, the same would be true with other measures, especially, the battle over the greenhouse gases law. But, the marijuana debate has longer roots — pardon the pun. Baby boomers nearing retirement were having a discussion over marijuana laws during their college days.
I suspect another reason for interest in the marijuana initiative is that the arguments over governance and fiscal matters are complicated. The voters have become frustrated and worn down with the endless debates over these issues. To voters, it is unclear if making these governance changes will help us climb out of our difficulties.