The recent June 9 Rasmussen Reports poll, released four months before the election, shows that 61% of likely voters in Colorado support Amendment 64, also known as the Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act of 2012. Only 27% of Colorado likely voters are opposed, while 12% are undecided.
To put this in perspective, a poll conducted in California four months before the 2010 election found that only 44% of Californians supported legalization, 48% were opposed, and 8% were undecided. The California amendment, Proposition 19, was defeated 53.5% to 46.5% on Election Day.
In Colorado, as in California, a major factor in the eventual success or failure of the marijuana legislation is the groups that are for or against it. Amendment 64 is supported by the Colorado Democratic Party, the state medical marijuana industry, and a variety of activist groups. According to the Denver Post, supporters of Amendment 64 have raised approximately $2 million, all but $16,500 of which is from out of state.
Opposition to Amendment 64 remains light, with State Senator Steve King and the group Smart Colorado, run by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, as the only major opposition thus far. The Denver Post reports that Smart Colorado has raised $15,000, $10,000 of which is from outside Colorado.
Opponents of Amendment 64, like Robert Sherman of CRL Associates, argue Amendment 64 is “bad for business as far as employers are concerned and it impacts how employers deal with their employees. We’re talking about huge ramifications on our children, on our state, and just the whole impacts on health and education.”
Supporters of this amendment, such as Tony Ryan, a former Denver police officer, argue, “Keeping marijuana illegal doesn’t do anything to reduce marijuana use, but it does benefit the gangs and cartels who currently control the illegal marijuana trade.” It will also provide much-needed tax revenue.
A similar measure from 2006, Amendment 44, sought to legalize marijuana but did not seek to regulate it in the same fashion as alcohol and tobacco. A poll conducted 40 days* before the election showed 29% of likely voters supported this amendment, 36% were opposed, and 35% were undecided.
Amendment 44 was defeated 59 to 41 with about $200,000 raised in favor and $1 million** raised by opposition groups. It is a fair assumption that many of the same groups that opposed this legislation in 2006 will oppose Amendment 64 in 2012.
However, a fundraising advantage does not necessarily indicate which side will be more successful. Approximately $4 million was raised in support of Proposition 19 in California, while only $320,000 was raised by the opposition. As mentioned above, that measure was defeated by a 7-point margin.
Nationally, it appears public opinion is shifting toward legalizing and regulating the sale of small amounts of marijuana. A nationwide poll released on May 17, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports showed 56% of likely voters supported legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, while only 36% were opposed.
Barring any significant shifts in public opinion or massive increases in opposition fundraising, it appears Amendment 64, to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, is well on its way to becoming law.
Update: The Public Policy Poll of registered voters released today shows 49% in favor of legalization and 43% against with 8% undecided. Independents support legalization 49-40, young people favor it 58-33, and voters over 65 oppose it 58-33. It appears the fate of this amendment will likely be determined by voter turnout in these two groups. Young voters historically have higher turnout during presidential election years, an advantage Prop 19 didn’t have in 2010.
*It’s somewhat problematic to compare a poll conducted four months before an election to a poll conducted 40 days before an election, but I was unable to locate any other polling for Amendment 44.
**Some of the committees that opposed Amendment 44 also opposed other measures on the Colorado ballot, so it is impossible to determine how much of this $1 million was spent solely against Amendment 44.