Question of Marijuana Ads on TV Shapes Legalization Battle

Not safe for wee ones
Not safe for wee ones
Gustavo Turner/L.A. Weekly

Opponents of marijuana legalization have hit a nerve with their contention that Proposition 64 would allow pot ads on primetime television in the Golden State.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein reiterated the claim recently. The publication PolitiFact said her statement was "mostly false." The reason? The Federal Communications Commission bans broadcast advertising of illicit drugs. That didn't stop a California court from ruling that opponents of the measure could claim in their ballot argument that cannabis advertising could come to family programs on TV if 64 passes, though a judge did order the anti-pot campaign to modify its language in the name of truth.

The No on Proposition 64 folks then commissioned a poll that found on-the-fence support (52 percent in favor) for legalization when likely voters are exposed to the pot-on-TV argument. Well, it looks like the Yes camp has battled back with internal polling numbers, obtained by L.A. Weekly, that show renewed support for 64 when likely voters were exposed both to the pot-on-TV claim as well as to the argument that this is mostly false.

When exposed to both sides of the TV advertising debate, as well as to the pro camp's claims that the measure provides the "nation's strictest controls" on cannabis, support rockets to 64 percent of likely Golden State voters — one of the highest support figures we've seen.

Now keep in mind that campaign-commissioned and internal polls always skew to a particular camp's favor. That's the point. For example, the most legit polls we've seen, including one produced by Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), show support for legalization among likely voters at 60 percent or so. So you have to consider these numbers in that light.

"They're talking about poll numbers they haven't shown anybody," says Wayne Johnson, a campaign consultant for the No on Proposition 64 side. "They haven't released cross tabs, questions, order sequencing. Until they do that, they haven't met the threshold of newsworthiness."

The pro-pot side counters that even with its best argument in front of likely voters — that this will bring weed commercials to your favorite show — 64 still wins. But if voters see both sides to that argument, supporters claim, this is in the bag.

"You know the anti-marijuana propaganda machine is in serious trouble when their own cherry-picked 'strongest argument' turns out to be a dud," says Yes on Proposition 64 spokesman Jason Kinney. "After decades of disinformation from the anti-marijuana opposition, voters intuitively know the same old discredited scare tactics when they hear them and that federal law prohibits TV and radio advertising. Proposition 64 does nothing to change that."

The measure, which will allow those 21 and older to hold up to an ounce of weed legally, will be waiting for you at the polls in November.

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