SAN FRANCISCO -- A poll released Wednesday has promising news for marijuana users who hope California will join the two other states that have voted to legalize recreational use of the drug.
A Field Poll found that a solid majority of those surveyed this month -- 54 percent -- support allowing weed to be sold and taxed like alcohol.
That is four percentage points higher than the last time Field pollsters posed the question to registered voters in July 2010. A few months later, a ballot initiative that would have made California the first state to back marijuana legalization received only 46 percent of the ballots cast and lost by fewer than 700,000 votes.
Voters in Washington and Colorado last year decided to flout federal drug laws and permit adults 21 and older to have small amounts of pot and to establish state-sanctioned growers and sellers. Opinion polls from those two states ahead of the November election showed less support for legalizing marijuana than participants in the California poll are expressing.
Unsurprising to anyone familiar with the state's regional preferences, the idea received the most backing in the San Francisco Bay area, where nearly 7 in 10 voters endorsed marijuana legalization.
A group of marijuana activists already has announced plans to go back to the ballot with a legalization initiative in 2014.
The poll also found that support for medical marijuana remains high throughout the California despite a push by federal prosecutors and many local governments to crack down on storefront dispensaries.
Of those surveyed, 70 percent said they support California's 16-year-old law allowing people with a doctor's recommendation to grow and possess marijuana without fear of state prosecution.
Although nearly 200 cities and counties have banned retail dispensaries that sell medical marijuana, 58 percent of the Field poll respondents said they would not mind having a dispensary where they live.