How many old people will have to die before marijuana is legal in California?

This article about the role of demographics and voter turnout on California’s Tax & Regulate Cannabis Initiative argues that according to polling data, the younger you are, the more likely you are to support the initiative, but the less likely you are to actually vote. However, because the threshold for support is getting older every year, the longer we wait to legalize marijuana, the more likely we are to succeed. We may just not be at the tipping point yet. Also, mid-term elections are better for the party that’s not occupying the White House; since Republicans are less likely to vote for legalization than Democrats, expect the vote to be skewed to the “nays.”

Which is not to say that the initiative is destined for defeat, it’ll just be harder to pass it this year than will likely be in two years, when the President who mobilized more young voters than any other in history runs for re-election.

You can’t put too much stock in stories like this, because these close races are difficult to call this far out. A lot can happen between now and November, and this is a very odd time in American history.

On an unrelated note, it’s morbidly amusing how quickly a relatively dry piece of analysis can turn grisly in its implications:

Older voters are also, of course, more likely to die before the next election. Death rates are nearly three times as high for people 75 to 84 than they are for those 65-74 — and death rates for those 85 and older are about three times higher than that. In other words, the groups most likely to oppose the marijuana effort are also a lot more likely to die in the next two years, and therefore not to take part in the next election. Nearly 9 percent of people 75 to 84 will die over a two-year period; almost a quarter of people 85 and older will die over that same period.

Even given that older, sicker people are less likely to vote — or to respond to telephone surveys — a two-year delay would mean that many of the voters who are most likely to oppose the initiative will die or become medically unable to vote. Overlaying death rate tables over the Times survey data suggest that the no side would lose approximately 130,000 net votes over two years.

It’s sad but true: grandma may have die before you can be free to smoke weed. Well, probably not this grandma:

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