60% of Californians Support Marijuana Legalization, Including Record Support from Latinos

March 11, 2016 - By Armando Gudiño

A recent California poll shows that a clear majority of Californians support legalizing marijuana. The poll, conducted by Probolsky Research, found that nearly 60 percent of Californians polled would vote yes to a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The poll also found that marijuana legalization was supported by 58.3 percent of California Latinos. This is the strongest support ever registered by California Latinos, the largest ethnic group in the state.

This is a strong indication that Latinos in California are following the national trends in shifts of opinions regarding issues of mass incarceration and deportations and recognize that the war on drugs has done more harm than good.  This also is an indication of the potential – and possibly substantial – up-tick in voter turnout, a trend we have seen in the past.

In the 2012 election, 11.2 million Latinos across the U.S, came out to vote, a 15 percent increase from the 9.7 million that came out in 2009. This year's contentious elections riddled with anti-immigrant ideology, xenophobia, and racism has resulted in an increase among permanent residents seeking to nationalize and use the power of the vote in this year's election.

This is seen most among Latinos who are projected to have over 13 million voters turn out nationally during this year's election.

Coupled with overall support for marijuana legalization at an all-time benchmark, these unprecedented numbers bode well for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which will be considered by California voters in November. AUMA is a consensus measure based on recognized best practices and recommendations from engaged citizens and organizations representing local government, health and policy experts, environmental leaders, small farmers and business owners, worker representatives and social justice advocates.

AUMA is broadly supported, including the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California Medical Association, the California NAACP and national NORML.

It is very encouraging to see overall statewide support hit the 60 percent mark, but marijuana legalization is by no means inevitable. There is much work to do to help law enforcement and youth advocates understand that AUMA will actually increase public safety and better protect young people from easily accessing cannabis. And this education and outreach work is most needed in the Latino community. The tax revenue and the criminal justice reforms will provide relief to the state on multiple levels, including increased funding for drug treatment, reducing jail crowding, and environmental restoration.

The Drug Policy Alliance is one of five backers of AUMA because it eliminates unproductive and unjust marijuana laws that have disproportionately targeted communities of color, and it protects public health by ensuring that consumers have access to products that are tested and labeled. The initiative also advances public safety by focusing scarce law enforcement resources on those who choose to operate outside of the new regulated system, as well as drug abuse prevention and treatment.

Armando Gudiño is the California policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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