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Support for legalizing marijuana at all-time high in California

Californians’ support for marijuana legalization is higher than ever in the nearly 50 years the Field Poll has been tracking voter sentiment on the subject.

The latest Field/IGS Poll, released last month, found 60 percent of state voters backed Proposition 64 on the Nov. 8 ballot, nearly twice as many as those opposed to the measure. Nine percent were undecided.

Three other recent polls found support for making cannabis legal ranging from 52 percent to 63.8 percent, with opposition from 34 percent to 40 percent.

Seventy percent of Democrats back legalization, compared with 40 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of voters with no party preference, the Field Poll found. Support rose with education level, from 48 percent for high school graduates to 66 percent for college grads.

Geographically, Los Angeles County voters had the highest level of support for legalization at 71 percent, compared with 61 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area and 50 percent in the Central Valley, the lowest level cited in the Field Poll.

The Field Poll’s first survey, conducted in 1969, found a mere 13 percent of residents favored legalization and 84 percent opposed it.

Three years later, California voters rejected Proposition 19 on the November 1972 ballot with 66.5 percent opposed and 33.5 percent in favor.

It was the first attempt to legalize pot by ballot measure in United States history.

Attitudes changed little in California over the next decade. Thirty percent of voters supported legalization in a 1983 Field Poll, while 67 percent opposed it.

But attitudes began to shift. By 2010, half of registered voters favored legalization, the poll found.

The second Proposition 19, on the November 2010 ballot, failed with 53.5 percent of voters against and 46.5 percent in favor. Sonoma County voters favored it, 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent opposed.

Supporters included Jared Huffman, then a state assemblyman and now a North Coast congressman and a prominent backer of Proposition 64, along with Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur who has donated more than $7 million to the Yes on 64 campaign.

Opponents of the 2010 ballot measure included Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, then candidates for the offices they now hold as governor and lieutenant governor.

Newsom, who plans to run for governor in 2018, is now a prominent backer of Proposition 64.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter?@guykovner.

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