Weed surge: Colorado Dems likely to push 2012 pot legalization initiative

Poll-takers are reporting that Proposition 19, which would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in California, will spur otherwise unenthusiastic Democrats to vote this year, a fact that has pro-Democratic Party groups in swing-state Colorado eyeing the 2012 ballot.

A poll conducted last December in Colorado and receiving renewed attention found that 45 percent of the mostly young people drawn by the Obama candidacy to vote for the first time in 2008 said they would be more likely to vote again if legalization were on the ballot. “If you are 18 to 29, it’s far and away the most compelling reason to go out and vote,” pollster Andrew Myers told the Wall Street Journal.

Analysts go back and forth on how effective ballot measures work to turn out the vote but the feeling is that pro-pot initiatives draw Democrats the way anti-gay marriage initiatives draw Republicans.

From the Journal:

Democratic strategists liken the marijuana effort to the 2004 ballot drives to ban gay marriage in Ohio and 10 other states. Whether those measures helped then-President George W. Bush win that year remains a point of debate, as turnout was high even in states without the issue on the ballot. But many conservatives say the measure drove thousands to the polls in Ohio, the election’s central battleground, where Mr. Bush won by just two percentage points, or about 118,000 votes.


Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, conducted a survey in late August to test the effect of the California measure on voter turnout. In her poll, a quarter of Democrats said they were “extremely interested” in voting in this year’s elections for governor and senator. When told about the marijuana measure, the number jumped to 38 percent. She found no effect on Republican turnout.

Public Policy Polling Director Tom Jensen has been reviewing surveys conducted by PPP in California. His take:

We’re seeing a much higher level of interest in this election from voters under 45 in California than in most places and those folks are highly favorable toward Proposition 19, planning to vote for it by a 54/34 margin.

Those same young voters are fueling much of the lead for Jerry Brown in the Governor’s race and Barbara Boxer in the Senate- if Brown and Boxer win they may have the marijuana initiative to thank for driving turnout from folks who would otherwise have been drop off voters in a midterm. We’ll do more research on what races are bringing people out the next time we poll California.

Colorado, however, is not just a swing state. It’s also a Western libertarian state and one where the legal medical marijuana industry is thriving and will be a routinely accepted fact of life by 2012, working in that way to ease opposition even among the present anti-pot crowd. In other words, legalization may not be the strictly Democratic draw here that it is elsewhere.

In the governor’s race this year in Colorado, for example, Democrat John Hickenlooper and Republican Dan Maes both oppose legalization. American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo supports it.

“Legalize it. Regulate it. Tax it,” Tancredo said at a debate last week in conservative Colorado Springs.

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