Terese J. Singer

Prop 19 Failed; What Now For The Legalization Movement?

With the failure of Proposition 19 - a vote to legalize marijuana in California - the movement that worked for that legalization is reassessing. A recent article from the Reason Foundation goes over the campaign, noting there was no clear overall reason why Prop 19 failed, but there were multiple problems:

  • Wrong election cycle; 2012, a presidential election year, is assumed better, making it easier to attract younger voters
  • Not enough TV advertising; some advertising money came in the last two weeks
  • Too complex; permitted county level modifications - creating the potential for a hodgepodge of regulation
  • Fear of employment impact; removing job discrimination led to concerns over pot-smoking bus drivers
  • Education; failed to educate general population as to the low-level threat posed by marijuana use
  • Growers opposed; some growers were against it, because it could reduce the profitability of their $1.4 billion medical marijuana operations

It does not appear that any one of these led to the defeat, rather a combination of all of them.

Nationwide support for the legalization of marijuana still is increasing; Gallup polls show, since 1995, support for marijuana legalization has increased from 25 percent to 46 percent. In the west, Gallup's October 2010 poll shows 58 percent support decriminalization of marijuana.

Research in California show that many of the overall supporters of legalization voted against Prop 19, indicating it may have suffered a death of a thousand cuts.

California National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) estimates that marijuana could yield the state at least $1.2 billion in tax revenues and reduced enforcement costs. Given the size of California's deficit, this number could become more important.

Will 2012 Be The Year?

The support nationwide is manifesting itself in additional states likely to have legalization initiative on the 2012 ballot, including California, Colorado and Nevada.

In California, the failure in 2010 will probably lead to a better organized, and more focused campaign. Many supporters are convinced the passage remains a question of "when" not "if."

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