This is a sampling from Bay Area News Group's Political Blotter blog. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

Dec. 4

Americans are evenly split over whether marijuana should be legalized, but most believe legalization is a matter for the states to decide, rather than the federal government, according to a new CBS News poll.

The poll released last week found 47 percent of Americans favor legalization, while 47 percent oppose it. And 59 percent believe whether to legalize marijuana should be left up to each state to decide, while 34 percent say it should be a matter for the federal government to decide.

But that support for state jurisdiction actually has declined from 62 percent in September. In the interim, Washington state and Colorado voters last month approved ballot measures to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana use for people age 21 and up. A similar measure in California -- Proposition 19 of 2010 -- was rejected by voters. California has no proposed ballot measures or legislative bills on marijuana legalization pending.

Still, drug reformers take the poll as proof that states should be allowed to make their own choices.


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"The big question on everyone's mind is -- how will the federal government respond to the decisive victories in Colorado and Washington?" Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a news release. "What this new poll shows is that Americans believe that states should be able to move forward with the responsible regulation of marijuana. The Obama administration would be wise to allow them to do so."

The CBS News poll was conducted by telephone from Nov. 16-19 among 1,100 adults nationwide, including both landlines and cellphones. It has a 3-percentage-point margin of error.

Other polls over recent years have shown a slow but steady trend in favor of legalization.

Dec. 5

Rep. Barbara Lee is helping to lead dozens of House members in demanding that an extension of emergency unemployment benefits be part of whatever "fiscal cliff" solution is worked out between Congress and the White House.

When I interviewed Lee, D-Oakland, last week for my story in Saturday's editions about the Bay Area delegation's stance on the negotiations, she had said this was among her top priorities.

Congress in February reduced the maximum number of weeks from 99 to 73 -- which Lee called "totally unconscionable" -- and now it's about to fall back to six months, cutting off more than 2 million people. Maintaining the benefits until at least 73 weeks is imperative, she said.

"Not only is it the right thing to do but it's the economically prudent thing to do," Lee said last week, noting that unemployment benefit dollars usually go directly out into the economy as the jobless feed, clothe and shelter their families.

So Lee and Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., sent a letter to House and Senate leaders yesterday requesting a full and robust extension, signed by 78 House members, including George Miller, D-Martinez; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

"Every one dollar spent on unemployment insurance generates $1.55 in economic activity," Lee said in a news release today. "With millions of Americans still struggling to recover from the recession, we cannot afford to strip one of the only remaining lifelines for workers that are eager to get back to work."