Could Be Marijuana That Determines the November Election
The wild card in November’s election is marijuana.
How much more money Meg Whitman spends on her gubernatorial campaign is significant but the kind of voters drawn to the polls by Proposition 19, which legalizes marijuana and allows localities to tax and regulate it, may be the determining factor.
Asked at the state Democratic Party convention in April how Democrats can re-energize President Obama voters from 2008, Party Chair John Burton replied: “Pot.”
Without arguing the merits of legalization, Burton said the ballot measure “will turn out people.”
The already high-profile proposition would allow cities and counties to adopt ordinances that license and regulate the “cultivation, processing, distribution, transportation and sale” of marijuana.
Some estimates say taxing retail sales, which are limited to one ounce to persons 21 years of age or older, could raise up to $1.4 billion annually.
“There will be national media interest and public curiosity,” said Mark Baldassare, president and chief pollster of the Public Policy Institute of California.
“The question is how much the campaigns will work to engage voters,” Baldassare said. “Will the ‘yes’ side seek to mobilize young voters who are more inclined to support legalization? Will the ‘no’ side counter with efforts to get out the vote among older voters less inclined to support legalization?”
Supporters of Proposition 19 say no mobilization is necessary – the voters are coming to them.
The “yes” campaign recently noted its number of Facebook friends surpassing 100,000. Proposition 19 supporters note the opposition has only six Facebook friends.
“This will translate into motivated volunteers, donors, increased voter turnout and 100,000 people spreading the word to their friends and neighbors with a passion and intensity that our opponents’ lonely six fans will never match,” said Dan Newman, a spokesman for Tax Cannabis 2010.
“Our research shows that a large number of occasional voters, particularly younger voters, will show up at the polls specifically to vote for this initiative,” Newman said.
An April 2009 Field Poll found 56 percent of California voters supporting legalizing and taxing marijuana. But Newman counters the appeal of the proposition to “low-propensity” voters means polls don’t show the full level of support.
“It will be the darling of the national media, that’s for sure,” said Allan Zaremberg, president of the California Chamber of Commerce.
One of the proposition’s major sponsors is S.K. Seymour LLC in Oakland, which does business as Oaksterdam University which bills itself as “America’s first cannabis college.”
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