Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Public Safety First Poll Smells Like B.S.

By David Downs
Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 10:55 AM

A new poll commissioned by drug warriors Public Safety First finds a 56 percent majority of Californians are against the Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative. Too bad the numbers are garbage.

On the eve of 4/20, anti-cannabis lobby Public Safety First released the results of a poll they commissioned. Shockingly, the drug warriors found that the majority of California wants the drug war to go on. Here's how you get those numbers: First you select the right 500 California voters to ask. Then you ask them a loaded question:

There will likely be an initiative on the November General Election Ballot to legalize cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use. Voters tend to fall into three groups: those who will almost certainly vote for legalization of marijuana use, those who will almost certainly vote against legalization of marijuana use, and those who want to see how the law will be written and to hear from both sides on the issue. In which of the three groups would you place yourself? Will you be {RANDOMIZE} voting for legalization of marijuana, voting against legalization of marijuana, or will you be waiting to hear the arguments for and against?

Do some math and bingo: 56 percent oppose pops up. It's the beauty of what statisticians call "priming".

Here's why not to trust this poll. 1) It was funded by entrenched drug warriors with a vested interest in - let's not call it lying - but shading the truth. In contrast, last spring's independent Field Poll found a 56 percent in favor. 2) The question isn't even true. The law is already written. Read the law here, and the interview with the guy who wrote it here. 3) The Drug Warriors could have easily polled people on the summary and text of the initiative, which is what people will read when they are voting. It reads below. Read it and ask yourself how you'd vote.

Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 Title and Summary:

Changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed. Initiative Statute.

Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Savings of up to several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Unknown but potentially major tax, fee, and benefit assessment revenues to state and local government related to the production and sale of marijuana products.


There's probably great arguments against Tax Cannabis 2010, but some of the most prominent drug warriors in the state can't seem to find them. When their rigged poll (download PSF's press release) can only yield a slight majority, it's no wonder people are thinking Tax Cannabis 2010 might actually win.

The full text of the Public Safety First press release is below:

For Immediate Release For further information, contact:

April 19, 2010 Dr. Val Smith (916) 337 5436

New Survey Confirms California Voters Oppose Marijuana Legalization

Opposition to initiative grows to 56%

(Sacramento) — A statewide poll of 500 California voters released by Smith Johnson Research indicates that opposition to marijuana legalization has grown to 56%, up from 52% opposed in a survey conducted last November by Probolsky Research.

“Voters clearly view this debate as significantly different than the debate over medical marijuana,” said Val Smith, PhD. “People seem to intuitively understand that full legalization is going to create problems in the workplace and on the roads, a fact that was confirmed in the follow-up questions.”

In the survey conducted March 3-4, 2010, a sample of 500 likely voters was asked the following:

There will likely be an initiative on the November General Election Ballot to legalize cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use. Voters tend to fall into three groups: those who will almost certainly vote for legalization of marijuana use, those who will almost certainly vote against legalization of marijuana use, and those who want to see how the law will be written and to hear from both sides on the issue.

In which of the three groups would you place yourself? Will you be {RANDOMIZE} voting for legalization of marijuana, voting against legalization of marijuana, or will you be waiting to hear the arguments for and against?

The initial tally showed only 18.3% definitely supported legalization, 45.7% definitely opposed legalization, 32.2% wanted to wait and hear the arguments, with 1.8% “other.”

The “waiting to hear” group was then asked:

If the election were held today would you be leaning for legalization, or leaning against legalization?

45% of this group was “leaning” in favor and 37% were “leaning” against. When the two groups were combined, the total results were as follows:

Vote For 36.5%

Vote Against 56.3%

(Still) waiting to hear 7.3%

Undecided .0%

“These are clearly early results,”said Smith, but they do not bode well for the proponents. Any initiative that starts out behind is usually considered to be in trouble.” Smith noted that a Field Poll done in May, 2009 had indicated majority support for “legalizing marijuana for recreational use and tax its proceeds.”

“Obviously, one has to look at the context in which questions are asked,” said Smith. “Our survey dealt with a single issue and that was the proposed initiative in California to legalize marijuana usage. The Field Poll asked voters about a long list of options to raise taxes on such things as pornography, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and oil companies, so it may be that there are voters who read the question as punitive against these things. That’s the so-called ‘sin tax’ effect.

“There were clearly voters who liked the idea of raising revenue from marijuana sales,” said Smith, “but they were less enthusiastic when they learned the initiative forbids the state to levy and collect such taxes. Only localities would be given taxing authority, so it would not affect the state budget deficit.”


The survey was conducted on behalf of Public Safety First, a California non-profit corporation supported by business, labor, law enforcement and community groups. ###

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