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Poll: Support For Legalizing Pot In California Sags

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A bud on a marijuana plant. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Support for California’s ballot measure to legalize marijuana has fallen behind in a new poll of likely voters two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

The Public Policy Institute of California poll released late Wednesday finds that 44 percent of likely voters surveyed back the measure while 49 percent oppose it. Seven percent said they were undecided.

The same poll last month found Proposition 19 leading by 11 points, 52 to 41, with an identical percentage undecided.

“I think the burden of proof is totally on the yes side to convince voters that this is not just a good concept but a good law,” said survey director Mark Baldassare. “That’s not taking place yet.”

The drop in support was sharpest among independents and Latinos as backing from both groups fell below 50 percent. The percentage of Democrats behind the measure fell, though a majority still favor it. Republicans remained strongly opposed.

The Yes campaign must also overcome an enthusiasm gap to eke out a victory, according to poll results. The survey found that 67 percent of likely “no” voters felt the outcome of the Proposition 19 vote was “very important,” while only 40 percent of “yes” voters felt the same way.

Pollsters surveyed 2,002 California adults from Oct. 10 to Oct. 17 and identified 1,067 as likely voters. The margin of error among likely voters was 3.5 percentage points.

No on Prop. 19 campaign spokesman Roger Salazar gave credit for the decline in support to widespread media coverage of the contest, which he said has allowed opponents of the measure to get their message out despite little financial support.

“That has been able to blunt the chronic disinformation that the yes side has been putting out there,” Salazar said.

The Yes on 19 campaign blamed the downward trend on what spokesman Dan Newman called “misinformation and scare tactics— part of the establishment’s last gasp attempt to protect the status quo and continue the failed war on marijuana.”

The shift in sentiment against the measure comes despite a large influx of cash to the Yes campaign, which has raised at least 10 times the money of the opposition.

Billionaire Peter Lewis, a longtime drug legalization advocate and retired Progressive Corp. chief executive, has given nearly $210,000 in the past week to support Proposition 19, according to campaign finance filings.

Other recent large donations have included $100,000 from Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, and $50,000 each from Marin County philanthropist Stephen Silberstein and Santa Barbara biomedical entrepreneur Richard Mazess.

The Yes campaign received $75,000 earlier this month from Encino television producer Kevin Bright, whose credits include the TV show “Friends.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the heart of California’s pot country have reluctantly thrown their support behind Proposition 19.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 with one abstention Tuesday to endorse the measure.

Proposition 19 has faced unexpected opposition from outlaw growers in the state’s so-called Emerald Triangle who worry legalization could lead to plummeting marijuana prices.

Supervisors backing the measure said the board could not ignore marijuana’s role in the county’s economic future.

(© CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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