Californian Voters Reject Prop. 19

Hemispheric Brief, 11/3/2010

California voters rejected Proposition 19 Tuesday, a ballot initiative which would have made the state the first in the US to allow limited amounts of marijuana to be sold legally for recreational purposes. With ninety percent of precincts reportingthis morning, some 54% of voters voted against measure. Some 46% came out in favor.

According to the LA Times, the principal failure lay in the the fact that voters under the age of 25 – the initiative’s principal backers – “did not turn out in unusually high numbers” on election day. In fact, the San Francisco Bay area was the only part of the state to see a majority favor Proposition 19 – and even there the majority appears to have been slimmer than expected.

Nevertheless, drug policy advocates saw many bright spots in the California campaign which, using the LA Times words once again, “transformed talk about legal pot from a late-night punch line into a serious policy matter.” Stephen Gutwillig, the California director of the Drug Policy Alliance says Prop. 19, even in defeat, marked a “watershed moment” by “moving marijuana legalization into the mainstream of American politics.” Legalization advocates are expected to bring the measure up for a second vote in California in 2012 while it’s likely that similar initiatives will be placed before voters in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon as well. But to win two years from now, advocates may have to harvest more targeted in-state support. As I have written here, the measure drew significant national and international attention over the last months, but, quoting the Times:

“[T]he opposition was broad…Men and women opposed it. Voters of every race opposed it. The campaign had hoped black and Latino voters would see the measure as a way to end disproportionate arrests of minorities caught with marijuana.”

If nothing else, Prop. 19 has gotten people talking.

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