For the first time in 44 years, a clear majority of Californians are in favor of legalizing marijuana, according to a study released Tuesday.
Fifty-five percent of those surveyed by The Field Poll supported the legalization of marijuana -- 8 percent believed it should be legal and available for purchase by anyone, while 47 percent felt it should regulated similarly to alcohol, with restrictions such as age.
The findings mark a significant change in the overall attitude of Californians toward the hot topic issue. A similar survey by The Field Poll in 1969 revealed that, at the time, 75 percent of those surveyed wanted either strict enforcement of marijuana laws against its use or even tougher laws, and only 13 percent favored legalization.
California's more open-minded mentality extends beyond just the poll. This month, the city council in Sebastopol, Calif. selected 36-year-old marijuana dispensary owner Robert Jacob to be mayor of the 7,500-person Northern California town. Jacob had been a member of the City Council for two years and had worked to create statewide dispensary regulations.
The Field Poll survey also found that a majority of Californians are in favor of adopting a proposed statewide initiative to decriminalize hemp and cannabis usage.
The initiative, proposed by marijuana advocacy group California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014, would legalize all uses for hemp and cannabis. It would also require that marijuana users be at least 21 years of age. Similar to alcohol, a standard for intoxication would also be set.
The initiative will be on next year’s November general election ballot if its proponents can gather more than 500,000 signatures from registered voters by Feb. 24, 2014.
The Field Poll asked those surveyed how they would vote if the initiative was indeed on next year's ballot. The Poll found that 56 percent of registered voters would vote yes, 39 percent would vote no, and 5 percent were undecided.
In terms of who is voting yes, the findings reveal that Democrats, liberals, those under the age of 50, singles, whites or non-Hispanics, college graduates, and those living in a coastal communities are more likely to support the legalization of marijuana.
As for who is more likely to oppose legalization, the study suggests Republicans, conservatives, Latinos, and people whose highest level of education is high school.
Last November, Colorado and Washington became the first states to approve initiatives legalizing the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana.