In spite of recent polls showing support for California's Proposition 19 (Tax and Regulate Cannabis) waning, there is still hope for supporters. And it lies primarily with younger voters (under 35) who favor the initiative 70-30. The question is whether they'll show up on November 2 in numbers significant enough to push the initiative over the top.
More after the jump.
As an experienced attorney in the regulation of medical cannabis in Northern California, I set aside my self-interest (uncommon in the industry) when I decided to support Prop 19. From a purely drug reform perspective it's hard to argue against this initiative. No, its alleged inadequacies (decentralized regulation) don't come close to overcoming the substantial impact of emptying our prisons and jails of marijuana offenders and not re-incarcerating those on parole/probation for lighting up.
Who's to say decentralized regulation is such a bad thing anyhow? Aside from being the only approach to overcoming federal preemption arguments, such an approach was taken at the end of alcohol prohibition. It allows jurisdictions that don't want to allow distribution and commercial manufacturing to opt out. In fact, it may neutralize would be opponents because they don't feel it's being forced on them.
Less than two weeks before the election, the initiative is in trouble if you believe the polls. On average, support falls below 50%. Yesterday, however, Nate Silver provided an interesting analysis on Prop 19's apparent eroding support:
Ballot measures, however, can be difficult to poll — particularly on culturally sensitive areas such as drug use. An analysis I conducted over the summer found some evidence that some polls could be underestimating the support that Latino and black voters are prepared to provide for the initiative, since marijuana usage can be especially stigmatized in their communities, and some of these votes could be reluctant to admit their support to pollsters.
Silver points out that it's the "uniquely motivated" voter - in large part the youth - that most polls aren't accounting for:
It could also be the case that pollsters are under representing non-traditional voters, who may be inclined to vote solely because of Proposition 19. SurveyUSA, for instance, which is one of the few polls still to show Proposition 19 favored to pass, has found a group of "uniquely motivated" voters in California — people who might be weeded out (pardon the pun) by traditional likely voter screens, but who show a strong interest in this year’s elections. These voters favor Proposition 19 by a 7:4 ratio, according to SurveyUSA’s analysis, and could make the difference between its passage and its failure.
There are good reasons to think the polls could either be overestimating or underestimating Proposition 19’s support. In spite of the recent trends against Proposition 19, therefore, I would be inclined to take the recent polling at face value, which suggests that the measure has about even odds of passing.
Traditionally, younger voters don't turn out on election day like older segments of the electorate. In 2008, they did for Obama. In 2010, will they in California? That's the $64,000 question - here in the Golden State and beyond we're on the edge of our seats to find out.