Prop Zero
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Budget Crisis Could be High Note for Pot Legalization



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    SAN FRANCISCO - JULY 25: Staarla Heaney holds a small bowl of marijuana at the San Francisco Patients Cooperative, a medical cannabis cooperative, July 25, 2002 in San Francisco, California. A San Francisco city supervisor has drafted a proposal allowing voters in San Francisco to decide whether the city should consider getting into the marijuana growing business. Supervisor Mark Leno said he drafted the proposal because the Drug Enforcement Administration remains determined to close down clubs that distribute medical marijuana in San Francisco and other parts of California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    The newest survey measuring attitudes about the legalization of marijuana use in California was conducted during the week of May 9, which featured Governor Schwarzenegger's promise of a budget massacre because of a rapidly climbing deficit.

    The poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows a dead heat, with 49-percent of likely voters in favor of the legalization issue which will appear on the November ballot and 48-percent opposed. 

    Between now and November 2, debate in Sacramento will pit Republicans against Democrats as they choose between painful remedies to close the deficit.  Every solution that can raise revenue without chopping more social programs or imposing across the board tax increases might look appealing.  In that context, marijuana is a cash crop.  That could improve the odds that the marijuana initiative will pass.

    Look at various polls during the past year.  In late October, a Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research poll asked 750 California voters whether marijuana use should be legalized.  52-percent of respondents said they would vote no.  Only 38-percent said they would vote yes.  Yet last spring, as Sacramento wrestled with another deficit, a California Field poll found that 56-percent of voters supported the legalization of marijuana.  Significantly, the Field Poll framed its poll question by pointing out that the legal use of marijuana would raise tax revenue for California.  

    It seems, then, that the objective for the backers of the marijuana initiative is clear.  Point out over and over again that pot can help close the state's budget deficit, maybe even save a social program.  That's a message Californians are inclined to listen to.