California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union announced on Thursday the results of new poll, which shows nearly two out of three likely 2016 California voters support the legalization of marijuana for adults.

The pollsters from Tulchin Research called 1,200 voters by landline and mobile phone to measure their support for a legalization proposal that would maintain prohibition for minors, establish state regulated stores, ensure DUI penalties and raise a billion dollars for the state. Sixty-five percent of poll respondents supported such a proposal, with a plurality of 46% “strongly” supporting legalization. Less than a third (32%) opposed legalization with three percent undecided.

Newsom called the press conference to also announce the formation of a panel that will study various proposals for marijuana legalization, with an eye toward the 2016 election.  The panel will include experts from medicine, public policy and science to make recommendations to both government and activists on how best to end prohibition in the country’s largest marijuana market. Representatives from Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Alliance hailed this development, saying time is needed to educate California voters and build alliances with medical professionals and other important stakeholders.

Two initiatives are already approved to gather signatures for the 2014 ballot. The California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (known as the “Jack Herer” initiative) and the Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act (the “open source” initiative cobbled together in an online Google Document) both face long odds for next election, needing over half a million signatures in about five months with no major funding and volunteer petitioners. Grassroots activists are undaunted, believing California’s governor’s race will draw a more liberal electorate and these poll results should certainly embolden them more.

Not surprisingly, the greatest amount of support came from young people aged 18-29 (85% support) and people who smoke marijuana (83% support); admittedly, groups with a great deal of overlap. However, for the first time in California polling we’re aware of, senior citizens and non-pot smokers supported legalization in majorities of 63% and 52%, respectively.

Also interesting: the gender gap seems to be closing. The recent Texas poll we reported showing 58% support for legalization began the trend of male and female support being nearly identical and this California poll falls in line, with both women just one point behind men in support, 65% to 66%.  Majority support for legalization was found in every age, every region, and every racial and ethnic group. The only people who did not support legalization were Republicans and that figure is close at 47% support, 50% oppose.

"Radical" Russ Belville is host of The Russ Belville Show, which airs live at 3pm Pacific.