'Flawed' California Marijuana Measure Rejected By Voters

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Opposed by nearly all major candidates for statewide office, the highly-visible effort to legalize possession of marijuana in California was defeated at the polls on election day. The ballot initiative, which was closely watched by proponents in other states, failed to convince California voters that legalizing marijuana would bring enough tax revenue to the state. Although the effort picked up early support from voters, it began to lose steam as campaigning hit the home stretch, perhaps doomed by a recently signed law that effectively decriminalized marijuana use.



  • The Bill Was 'Flawed' and 'Put on the Ballot In a Bad Year,' figures The Atlantic's Chris Good, who notes that the result was pretty much as expected: "No on 19 rolled out endorsement after endorsement, from every major candidate for statewide office in California, including Democrats Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer. A last-minute surge of pro-legalization money from superdonors Peter Lewis (of Progressive Insurance) and George Zimmer (of the Men's Wearhouse) wasn't enough to fight back."
  • Relatively Little Money Was Spent on the Campaign reports Anthony York at The Los Angeles Times. "While millions of dollars was spent on other ballot measures, the Prop. 19 campaign was modest by California political standards." Still, he hedged, "No issue received more attention around the state. The measure was opposed by law enforcement groups and elected officials from both political parties."
  • The Measure Failed Because Pot Was Already Decriminalized  Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone observes that when the California state legislature made the move to decriminalize marijuana in early October (an infraction is "like a parking ticket") it effectively took the wind out of the sails of the ballot initiative's proponents: "The trouble with this decriminalization move as far as Prop 19 was concerned is that the initiative's campaign had been centered on the injustice and waste of law enforcement resources involved in treating cannabis smokers like criminals. Decriminalization scratched that itch for the mid-term electorate--which skews older and more conservative."
  • It Even Lost In Humboldt County  An Associated Press report details how the ballot opponents cut "across gender and racial lines, as well as income and education levels." Even in areas where there was assumed to be strong support for the initiative, in Northern California growing regions, the proposition was defeated. "Many in the region feared the system they have created would be taken over by corporations or lose its purpose."
  • Activists Need To Do a Better Job of Building an Organization  The Guardian's Paul Harris remarks that "in California, at least, that might not be too hard. The medical marijuana industry has already made the drug commonplace over large stretches of the state, where it is widely available with a doctor's prescription and dispensed in cafes. Though nominally for medical use only, there are few controls on who gets prescriptions and what for. It is even dispensed in the form of marijuana-infused ice-cream."
  • This Is Only the Beginning  Politico's Darren Samuelsohn quotes Jennie Drage Bowser, an expert on ballot initiatives at the National Council of State Legislators, who explained that "the pot legalization debate is far from over, despite Proposition 19’s defeat: similar measures are likely to return in several states in 2010, including Colorado and Nevada. Some analysts predict it could become a mobilizing issue for the youth vote, which in turn could help Obama's reelection prospects."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.