Courts & Crime

As legalization vote looms, pot permeates California life

John Wade, 43, a San Francisco commercial lighting specialist, takes a quick hit from a marijuana cigarette on the golf course to steady himself before putting.

Sarika Simmons, 35, of San Diego County, sometimes unwinds after the kids are asleep with tokes from a fruit-flavored cigar filled with pot.

And retiree Robert Girvetz, 78, of San Juan Capistrano, recently started anew — replacing his occasional martini with marijuana.

"It's a little different than I remember," he says. "A couple of hits — and wooooo. . . "

As California voters prepare to decide in November whether to become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a new Field Poll conducted for The Sacramento Bee reveals that weed already is deeply woven into society.

Those who use the drug, and their reasons for doing it, may be as diverse as the state itself.

Forty-two percent of adults who described themselves as current users in the July poll said they smoke pot to relieve pain or treat a health condition. Thirty-nine percent use it recreationally, to socialize or have fun with friends.

Sixty percent say marijuana helps them relax or sleep. Twenty-four percent say it stimulates their creativity.

Historically, marijuana use in California remains lower than during peak years of the late 1970s. But voters' approval of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act — which made the state the first to legalize medical marijuana — is changing the social dynamic, according to poll results and interviews with users in 15 counties.

"It's certainly likely that post-Proposition 215, it has become more mainstream and the base of users has broadened," said Craig Reinarman, a UC Santa Cruz sociology professor who has studied marijuana in society.

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