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Is California's Pot Legalization Movement Faltering?

Rodger Graham handed out "Yes We Cannabis" stickers to fans at Game Four of the NLCS in San Francisco. CBS/Stephanie Condon

Updated at 11:55 a.m. ET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two of San Francisco's favorite past times are at stake in the coming weeks: Giants baseball and pot smoking.

The fate of the Giants could be decided as early as today in Game Five of the National League Championship Series, in which the San Francisco team faces off against the Philadelphia Phillies with a three-to-one game advantage.

The future of pot smoking in California, meanwhile, will be settled on Nov. 2.

Ahead of Game Four on Wednesday, Giants fans in street-cone orange t-shirts marched with purpose to San Francisco's AT&T Park, dodging restive scalpers and cramming together impatiently at will call windows. Before heading into the ball park, however, more than a few fans paused to grab a giant green, circular sticker with the cheeky, pro-Proposition 19 catch phrase "Yes We Cannabis."

If California voters pass Proposition 19 on Election Day, the state would be the first in the nation to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. It's unclear whether the ballot measure will pass -- the latest poll shows more voters opposed to the initiative than in favor of it. However, California has been cultivating a pot smoking culture for some years now. And with the state's budget in dire straits, proponents of Prop. 19 say the tax revenues it will generate are needed more than ever.

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"I think it will impact the state in a big way," said Andy Broadbent, 51, who grabbed a sticker from the Prop. 19 canvassers outside of AT&T Park. "It will reduce the number of people who go in our jails, and and it will increase revenues because we're going to wind up taxing the marijuana as it's sold, the same way we tax tobacco and alcohol."

Voters seem receptive to that argument -- but also cognizant of the unintended consequences the measure could create. "I think there's going to be a lot of protest here in the state" should the federal government push back against Prop. 19, Broadbent said.

The new poll, released Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), shows that 44 percent of likely voters in California plan to vote for Prop. 19, while 49 plan to vote against it and 7 percent remain undecided. This is an 8-point drop in support from PPIC's September poll, when 52 percent of voters said they supported the measure.

A second new poll from SurveyUSA, which conducts automated polls, showed voters in favor of Prop. 19, 48 percent to 44 percent. More voters said they opposed the measure than in previous SurveyUSA polls.

PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare told that California voters typically vote against ballot initiatives -- especially if they receive negative messaging on the issue.

"Even those people who might support a certain change in concept, if they're getting mixed signals, the default is to vote no," Baldassare said.

Certainly, Californians are getting mixed signals.

Both the residents and the leaders of the Golden State clearly tolerate, and to a large degree accept, pot smoking within the existing framework. But it's unclear whether voters would shake up the status quo in light of opposition from top politicians.

Just this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law reducing the charges for marijuana possession in the state, so that the penalties are no greater than those for a parking ticket. Yet in his signing statement, the governor blasted Proposition 19 as a "deeply flawed measure."

California's burgeoning medical marijuana industry -- based on some of the loosest medical marijuana laws in the country -- exploded in the past year after the Justice Department announced it would not spend resources going after medical marijuana use. But while the Obama administration has chosen to look the other way when it comes to medical marijuana, the administration is firmly against legalization and has threatened to enforce federal laws in California should Prop. 19 pass, or possibly take the state to court.

The California Democratic Party has chosen to remain neutral on the issue. While some Democrats in the state support it, others -- like gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer -- oppose it.

Advocacy on behalf of Prop. 19 has been relatively small in scale but passionate. Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee sponsored the measure and is one of its top financial supporters. Peter B. Lewis, the former CEO and current chairman of Progressive Insurance Companies, has donated more than $200,000, while David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, joined with a hemp clothing company to pledge $100,000. Special Report: Election 2010

The measure is also endorsed by the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers, two unions hoping to boost job creation with a new industry.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), a national group, has partnered with the progressive blog FireDogLake to start the Just Say Now campaign to draw attention to Prop. 19 and other marijuana law reform initiatives in other states. The campaign is conducting phone banking targeting voters under 30 -- those most likely to support Prop. 19 -- and SSDP associate director Jon Perri said the response has been "overwhelmingly supportive."

If anything, Perri said, young people are not opposed to the measure because they are opposed to marijuana use -- rather, they are concerned about disrupting the informal marijuana growing economies that already exist in their home towns.

Joseph Woods, 26, of Humboldt County, wears a shirt rooting for Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, who was charged with marijuana possession. CBS/Stephanie Condon

"Right now cannabis is completely uncontrolled," Perri said. "Without age restrictions, without some forms of quality control, a distribution system where people have to show some form of ID, it's a free for all."

The passage of Prop. 19 would lay the foundation for those new regulations, he said.

Back at AT&T Park, Joseph Woods, 26, confirmed that some residents of his home county of Humboldt are concerned about the proposition disrupting their marijuana growing.

"There are the homegrown folks that don't want anyone taking over their business," he said.

Woods said that he is in favor of Prop. 19 -- and he happened to be sporting a t-shirt that read "Let Tim Smoke," in reference to the Giants' star pitcher Tim Lincecum, who was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession last year in his home state of Washington. The charge was reduced to a civil infraction, and the fans seem to have forgiven him. Before Game Four, fans with Lincecum jerseys bee-lined to the Prop. 19 canvassers, grabbed some "Yes We Cannabis" stickers and smacked them in the center of their "Smoke the Phillies" signs.

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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