California has been at the forefront of marijuana policy in the United States since 1996, when it became the first state to establish a medical marijuana program. In November 2016, voters approved Proposition 64 (57% yes), making California the fifth state to legalize marijuana. While there have been reports of post-legalization issues over the past several years, most Californians think the passage of Prop 64 was a good thing.
In our June PPIC Statewide Survey, a record-high 64% of Californians said that the use of marijuana should be legal, but opinions were more divided in periodic surveys from May 2010 to October 2014. For example, in September 2010—two months before voters narrowly rejected a measure that would have made California the first state to legalize recreational use (Proposition 19: 53% no)—Californians were split (47% legal, 49% not legal). Since then, the share supporting legalization has risen by double digits across most regions and demographic groups.
While half or more across regional and demographic groups think the use of marijuana should be legal, there is a wide partisan divide: three in four Democrats and independents say marijuana use should be legal, compared to four in ten Republicans. Latinos are less likely to say marijuana use should be legal than other racial/ethnic groups. Support for legalization increases with educational attainment (51% high school only, 67% some college, 74% college graduates) and is higher among those 18 to 34 (72%) than among those 35 and older (61%).
Although marijuana is legal in California, retail marijuana businesses are banned in 61% of cities and counties across the state. Just over half of Californians say retail sales of recreational marijuana should be allowed in their city or community. Here, too, there is a wide partisan divide, with strong majorities of Democrats and independents in favor compared to only one in three Republicans. Racial/ethnic and demographic differences are similar to those on legalization: Latinos and Asian Americans are less likely than whites and African Americans to be in favor. Younger Californians are more likely than older Californians (65% 18 to 34, 53% 35 and older) to be in favor and support increases with educational attainment (45% high school only, 60% some college, 65% college graduate).
Most Californians (61%) think that Proposition 64 has turned out to be mostly a good thing. This includes majorities across regions and nearly all demographic groups. Overwhelming shares of Democrats and independents are in favor, compared to about one in three Republicans. Latinos are the least likely racial/ethnic group—and African Americans the most likely—to say this has been a good thing. Younger Californians (69% 18 to 34) are more likely than older Californians (58% 35 and older) to take a positive view of Proposition 64, and the share saying that it is a good thing increases with educational attainment (49% high school only, 65% some college, 69% college graduate).
Support for legalized marijuana and retail marijuana sales in cities or communities remains solid even as policymakers grapple with challenges and concerns related to Proposition 64. Lawmakers recently addressed a number of issues, banning employer discrimination over off-the-job cannabis use, prohibiting local bans on medical marijuana delivery, and setting up a process for sales outside the state. The legislature is also responding to concerns about geographical equity, social equity, and black market sales. The PPIC Statewide Survey will continue to follow these and other developments.