This November, California voters will be voting on Proposition 19, which would legalize recreational marijuana use and tax it at $50 per ounce. Nate Silver homes in on the polling, noting that automated polls show greater support than person-to-person polling. Among black voters, for example, the automated call polls show a 28 to 38 point lead. But traditional polls show Prop. 19 trailing by 12 points among blacks. Silver's hypothesizes that voters may be loath to admit they're OK with legalizing marijuana to a live pollster, which could be a reversed Bradley Effect -- or as he dubs it, the Broadus Effect, named after rapper Snoop Dogg, who frequently discusses the pleasures of marijuana use. The Bradley Effect is a political phenomenon where a voters tells pollsters that they will support a black candidate but do not once they enter the voting booth.
I think Silver's analysis is plausible but not likely. Marijuana use in California doesn't have much of a stigma attached to it and is pretty widespread across races and genders. (As Silver says, it's used only slightly more among blacks than whites, and blacks make up a whopping 7 percent of Californians.)
My hometown of Stockton, California, happens to be one of the places where two dozen "grow houses" were raided in 2006. These houses -- some of which were located in my parents' middle-class suburban neighborhood -- were set up for thousands of marijuana plants each. The owners often applied for low-income energy price breaks from the utility companies while using much more energy and water than the human-occupied homes in the neighborhood. This meant that taxpayers were subsidizing the energy-hogging grow houses.
With so much cheap housing inventory available in California post-bust (eight California cities made the list of 20 cities with the highest foreclosure rates nationwide), and grow-house raids continuing, it seems that some sort of regulation of the growth and sale of marijuana would save the state money and bring in enough tax revenue to help with its faltering economy.
Perhaps California voters are considering the pleasures of more than just one kind of green.
-- Shani O. Hilton
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