Prop Zero
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Can Pot Help Rescue California?



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    DALY CITY, CA - APRIL 18: A bowl of medicinal marijuana is displayed in a booth at The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo April 18, 2010 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California. The two day Cannabis and Hemp Expo features speakers, retailers selling medical marijuana smoking paraphernalia and a special tent available for medical marijuana card holders to smoke their medicine. Voters in California will consider a measure on the November general election ballot that could make the State the first in the nation to legalize the growing of a limited amount of marijuana for private use. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    Backers of a California ballot measure to legalize the use of marijuana might wish the issue were on the ballot on June 8 rather than Nov. 2. 

    It's conceivable that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature will solve California's looming $19 billion dollar deficit by November.  So the financial bump from a tax on legal marijuana may not be as much an issue by then.  It certainly will be when voters go to the polls in the primary election in June, when any extra revenue to soften the blow of deep cuts might look very appealing.

    As people were gathering signatures late last year to qualify the legalization initiative for the ballot, the Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research polls asked 750 voters whether they'd support the legislation.  The poll was conducted in late October, when Sacramento seemed to have a handle on the budget.  More than half of hte respondents -- 52-percent -- said they would not want to see marijuana production and use legalized.  Only 38-percent supported the initiative.

    That seemed to contradict the results of a Field Poll which was conducted several months earlier.  But things were different then.  The Governor and the legislature were struggling to close a deficit.  And The Field Poll asked voters if they'd vote for legalization knowing that the sale of marijuana would raise tax revenue for California.  In that poll, 56-percent of voters said they supported legalization.  

    The latest numbers? A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California released last week show that 49 percent favor legalization and 48 oppose. Again, facing a deficit, the public supported legalization -- and the tax revenue it would bring in.

    So timing might be key when it comes to legal marijuana in California.  If the pain of the budget balancing from Sacramento is as severe as it seems certain to be, backers of the initiative would seem to have their strongest ally.