Arizona's Marijuana-Legalization Measure, Prop 205, Picks Up Pace in New Poll

Prop 205, which would legalize marijuana in Arizona, is gaining momentum in a new poll.

The poll by OH Predictive Insights, conducted September 28-30, shows an increase in support in the past month for Prop 205, and that the proposition still has a chance at passing. However, it also shows the measure behind 43-47, with 10 percent still undecided.

The proposition aims to grant adults 21 and older the freedom the possess, buy, and grow personal amounts of cannabis, and sets up a limited system of retail shops where people could buy cannabis products.

J.P. Holyoak, chair of the Prop 205 campaign, calls the poll an "outlier" and says that actual public support is even higher. He points out that a poll OH Predictive released in late August, which showed Prop 205 behind at 51-40, conflicted with a poll taken about the same time by the Arizona Republic, Arizona State University's journalism school, and the Morrison Institute. That poll showed the measure winning 50-40, with 10 percent undecided.

The poll of 718 likely voters across Arizona included 22 percent with cell phones and 78 percent with landlines, a difference that could leave out many younger voters who tend to support cannabis freedom.

Holyoak sees the consulting company's latest poll as reflective of a positive trend, and an indication that the public doesn't believe the propaganda used in the opposition group's latest barrage of ads.

Days before the new OH poll was taken, the opposition group Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy ran a series of ominous-sounding TV ads. But the ads contain blatant lies.

For instance, one ARDP ad claims that Denver schools get "nothing" from marijuana taxes, but it's not true, according to Denver Public Schools. A video by the school district explains that Denver doesn't get the tens of millions in marijuana state-tax money, which mainly goes to rural school districts, but that Denver schools do get a small amount of funding from city-level marijuana taxes.

The implication, of course, is that Arizona would also get "nothing" from taxing a substance more than 600,000 Arizonans 21 and older already use regularly. In fact, the state's own budget analysts predict that Prop 205 would rake in at least $124 million annually in taxes and fees by 2020.

OH's new poll — which the company says was an independent survey and not commissioned by ARDP or anyone else — implies that the public may be responding negatively to ARDP's fact-challenged mud-slinging.

Support in telephone surveys was higher for Arizona's medical-marijuana election in 2010 and Colorado's Amendment 64 election in 2012 than the support shown by voters in either election. Both measures passed by several points less than polls had predicted in the weeks prior, meaning that advocates of legal cannabis could be rightly worried that Prop 205 support isn't high enough right now.

Yet Prop 205 could still pass, says Mike Noble, OH managing partner and chief pollster. The movement in the polls is positive and within a margin that could produce success, he says.

As other polls have shown, it'll be extremely important for young people to get out and vote if Prop 205 is to win. Conservatives who show up in person at the polls on Election Day tend to vote "no" on propositions, Noble says.

The Trump factor could be an important one, he says.

While Trump supporters may not be typical Republicans, Noble says cross-tabulations of poll data show that they're not keen on legal pot. On the other hand, polls show that "a vote for Hillary is a vote for pot," he says, meaning that Clinton supporters tend to be strongly in favor of pro-cannabis ballot measures.

Prop 206, which would raise minimum wage in Arizona, also excites young people and could bring many to the polls, Noble says.

OH's latest poll, by the way, also took the pulse of Prop 206 and showed it leading 53-40, with 7 percent undecided. That also represents a slight increase in support from OH's August poll on Prop 206.

In other words, maybe Clinton and minimum wage will help the cannabis measure, or maybe cannabis and minimum wage will help Clinton take Arizona. 

One thing's clear with the latest OH poll: Prop 205 is still in the game. Noble says it's the campaign's to win — if it manages to pull in hordes of voters aged 18 to 29.

Voters can expect to keep hearing "Reefer Madness" from the prohibitionist group, which is fighting to keep possession of any amount of marijuana a felony in Arizona.

ARDP has tapped a diverse group of controversial sources for its funding, taking money from the alcohol industry, the parent company of Arizona Public Service, and a Chandler drug firm under investigation for aggressively marketing a deadly opiate. 

A small fortune flowed into the group's account just last week, including: $498,000 from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce; $15,000 from Greater Phoenix Leadership (former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano is CEO and president); $50,000 from the Arizona Automobile Dealer's Association; $10,000 from MR Tanner Construction; and $15,000 from Bob Castellini, an Ohio big-wig who owns the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. That's a total $588,000 raised since October 5. (The Arizona Chamber of Commerce also last week donated $25,000 to try to defeat Prop 206.)

The prohibitionists need more money because they've been burning up so much with their TV ads. As Dennis Welch of Channel 3 News (KTVK-TV) reported last week, the group bought $1 million for TV spots through October 3.