A recent poll found that California voters narrowly oppose the initiative to legalize marijuana. A recent study may give ethnic voters even more pause, especially those who plan to cast a vote based on the money they believe taxing marijuana sales will pump into state coffers. The report found that projected revenues are highly uncertain.


According to a Field Poll released July 9, California voters narrowly oppose Proposition 19, the initiative to tax and regulate marijuana, by 48 percent to 44 percent, with ethnic voters especially skeptical.

A recent study may give ethnic voters even more pause, especially those who plan to cast a vote based on the money they believe taxing marijuana sales will pump into state coffers.

An 84-page report released this month by the RAND Corporation, a public-policy think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif., found that legalizing marijuana in California would cause the price of the drug to plummet by as much as 80 percent and increase use of the drug by at least 50 percent.

Whereas the state estimates that Prop. 19 could raise more than $1 billion in revenue each year, the RAND study says that the figure could be “dramatically” higher or lower, because there are so many unknowns.

"There is considerable uncertainty about the impact that legalizing marijuana in California will have on consumption and public budgets," Beau Kilmer, the study's lead author and a policy researcher at RAND, said in a press release. "No government has legalized the production and distribution of marijuana for general use, so there is little evidence on which to base any predictions about how this might work in California."

Past research shows that marijuana use goes up when prices go down, but the new level of consumption is uncertain and depends on many factors, including the amount of the tax and the level of tax evasion. The report also factors in the costs of enforcing the regulations and the costs to society from higher drug use (drug treatment, health costs, etc.)

Ethnic voters, however, will cast their vote based on more than just how Prop. 19 might affect the state budget. They are likely to be influenced by cultural, political, religious or moral reasons.

The poll found that whites supported the initiative to legalize marijuana 48 to 43 percent, while Latinos and Asian Americans oppose it by nearly a 2-to-1-margin, 36 to 62 percent and 33 to 62 percent, respectively. African Americans oppose the initiative by a smaller, but still double-digit margin, 40 percent to 52 percent. Eight percent of voters said they are undecided.

Within the African American community, a coalition of religious and community leaders called for the resignation of Alice Huffman, president of the California State Conference of the NAACP, after the group came out as one of the early supporters of Prop. 19.

“Why would the state NAACP advocate for blacks to stay high?" said Bishop Ron Allen and other members of the International Faith-Based Coalition during a news conference in Sacramento, reported the Los Angeles Times. "It's going to cause crime to go up. There will be more drug babies.”

Huffman has said she supports legalizing marijuana because African Americans are disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests.

The Field Poll also found that, by a 2-to-1 margin. those who have not heard of the measure were more likely to vote against its.

With ethnic voters likely to make a big impact on the November vote, we’re sure to see efforts by opponents and supporters of Prop. 19 to sway this important voting bloc, by appealing to those deep-rooted cultural and moral beliefs.