Prop 19 Loses Big

Despite the Democrats sweeping quite literally every statewide office in California, Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization ballot issue, lost by 10 points.

Despite the Democrats winning big in California, sending Governor Moonbeam and “Call Me Senator, I Worked Hard For That Title” to easy victories over well-financed Republican challengers — not to mention sweeping quite literally every statewide office, most by huge margins —  Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization ballot issue, lost by 10 points.

After taking a serious look at legalizing marijuana, Californians voted Tuesday to reject Proposition 19, which would have made the state the first to allow the drug to be sold for recreational use.

The measure drew strong support from voters younger than 25, as the campaign had hoped, but those voters did not turn out in unusually high numbers, according to a state exit poll. The initiative also failed to win over the moderate voters who make up the state’s decisive swing vote.

The San Francisco Bay Area was the only region to tilt toward the measure, but it did so just slightly. In Los Angeles County, where a quarter of the state’s voters live, the initiative lost.

Despite a potential double-digit loss, marijuana-legalization advocates said the proposition had transformed talk about legal pot from a late-night punch line into a serious policy matter.  “This has been a watershed moment,” said Stephen Gutwillig, the California director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which waged an extensive ad campaign for the measure. “Even in defeat, Proposition 19 has moved marijuana legalization into the mainstream of American politics.”

Tuesday’s vote was just the first round, say legalization advocates, who are aiming measures at the 2012 ballot in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and very likely California. But it’s also the second time in two years that California voters have rejected an initiative to soften penalties for drug crimes.

[…]

But the opposition was broad, according to the poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Voter Pool, a consortium of the major television news networks and the Associated Press. 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.

Of course, it’s not only anti-drug folks that oppose Prop 19.   There was strong opposition from the medical marijuana establishment, which naturally wants to protect its monopoly.   And there was, I gather, an “anti-corporate pot” movement by aficionados of microbrewed weed.

Still, My sense is that it’s only a matter of time before marijuana is legal out West; it’ll take a lot longer on the East Coast and in the Deep South.

UPDATE (Doug Mataconis): James and I were posting at the same time, so I’m consolidating here.

Politico adds this interesting angle:

The pot legalization initiative drew worldwide attention, but support for the measure has been sinking, according to recent polls. As late as Tuesday, Oakland City Attorney John Russo – a leading proponent of the pot plan – signaled its fading prospects during a Bay Area press conference.

“Even if we are cheated out of a win today, we have changed the debate from licentious hippies versus straight-arrow cops to one that recognizes this issue in all of its complexity,” Russo said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

California already has a bustling medical marijuana industry, and outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last month signed a new law that essentially lowered the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of pot.

That action by Schwazenegger may have been the action pulled the wind out of the sails of the Prop 19 movement since it made most recreational use of marijuana in California the equivalent of getting a traffic ticket. The debate over legalization is far from over, and the demographics are still in favor of legalizaing pot in the long-term. For the moment, though, the drug warriors have won a victory.

FILED UNDER: General,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    I wouldn’t call 46% in favor “losing big.” As you say in your Joyner Buried Lede(tm), it is a sign that it will happen eventually.

  2. john personna says:

    (I guess I’ll be planting tomatoes again this year.)

  3. James Joyner says:

    We tend to call a 10 point margin a “landslide” in American politics, where everything seems to be 50-50. And it’s astounding on a ballot where Democrats swept, often by 10 point or larger margins.

  4. tom p says:

    “Of course, it’s not only anti-drug folks that oppose Prop 19. There was strong opposition from the medical marijuana establishment, which naturally wants to protect its monopoly. And there was, I gather, an “anti-corporate pot” movement by aficionados of microbrewed weed.”

    in a nut shell.

  5. MstrB says:

    At some point last night they were interviewing people at the Yes on 19 rally and one of the people there pointed out that you shouldn’t believe the early returns cause the yes voters don’t get up that early to vote.

  6. matt says:

    Personally I’m just amazed and happy that 46% of the people went on the record saying that the decades of propaganda and such were/are wrong… The results were way better then I had dared hoped for back when they first announced prop 19…

  7. MstrB says:

    However, I am going to miss the robo-calls from Susan Sarandon

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****“Of course, it’s not only anti-drug folks that oppose Prop 19. There was strong opposition from the medical marijuana establishment, which naturally wants to protect its monopoly. And there was, I gather, an “anti-corporate pot” movement by aficionados of micro brewed weed.”****

    Maybe it was the illegals voting not to pick another crop, lol, or some people in Cali think, hard to believe but maybe.

    Perhaps it was the illegal marijuana establishment?

  9. Herb says:

    “And it’s astounding on a ballot where Democrats swept, often by 10 point or larger margins.”

    I got the sense that Prop 19 support didn’t break down so cleanly along partisan lines. The Democratic sweep may have actually hurt its chances. If there were more competitive races, and a better Republican showing (drawing out the libertarian vote), we might be talking about how it lost by 5 or 6 points instead of 10.

  10. John Personna says:

    Surely the Libertarians voted yes, and the Buckleyites.

  11. Tano says:

    “We tend to call a 10 point margin a “landslide” in American politics, ”

    Actually, I think there is some serious semantic inflation going on here. It used to be that the term “landslide” only kicked in around 60% – i.e. a 20 pt win. Y’know, like for FDR, or Johnson, or Nixon. Results in the mid-to high 50s, like for Ike, or Reagan, were simply solid victories. But like so many other things, there is such an impulse toward the bold and dramatic language – everything has to be big and notable and important!

    Its kind of odd to imagine a group of 20 people, who divide 11-9, and claim you have a “landslide”.

  12. matt says:

    GA : I have no doubt that most of those financially involved with the illegal trade would of voted against prop 19. Great way to keep prices high and keep their income tax free..

  13. John Personna says:

    You only get 10 points by rounding anyway

    http://vote.sos.ca.gov/returns/ballot-measures/

  14. James Joyner says:

    I have no doubt that most of those financially involved with the illegal trade would of voted against prop 19. Great way to keep prices high and keep their income tax free..

    Pay taxes? I’m a criminal, yo.

  15. Wayne says:

    Re “the demographics are still in favor of legalizaing pot in the long-term”

    I am not sure how you can say that when California with its very liberal demographics voted it down. What are you basing it on? Everyone you know does thing, it is what you think so it must be true deal, or some college poll taken by pot smokers somewhere?

  16. John Personna says:

    Wayne, it splits along age lines. The belief is that middle age folk won’t change their minds as they age. A generational shift.

  17. James Joyner says:

    I am not sure how you can say that when California with its very liberal demographics voted it down.

    Liberal isn’t a demographic. As the older voters get replaced by younger ones — and whites by Hispanics — we’re likely to see support for legalization increase.

  18. matt says:

    Wayne : He probably is referring to the fact that for the last couple decades polls on pot legalization has shown a consistent increase in the number of people supporting legalization (especially in the last 5 years).

    James the spread is now 8% so is it still considered a landslide? I’m not sure how I should be taking your quip about taxes.

  19. James Joyner says:

    James the spread is now 8% so is it still considered a landslide?

    Well, Clinton beat Dole 49.2% to 40.7% and it was widely described as one. But, meh, probably not.

    I’m not sure how I should be taking your quip about taxes.

    “Breaking Bad” reference, yo.

  20. Wayne says:

    JP
    Understood . However many people do change their mind as they age. Even some of the “Hippie” Generation has although their support for legalization probably reminds a good deal higher than their parent generation which “in part” explains the shift in attitude. However like any generation they will die off.

    DEMOGRAPHIC – a part of a population identified as a group, especially as a target for sales or advertising

    Usually what come to mind are age, gender and race. However it can be any number of other characteristics including disabilities, mobility, what social network you belong to, or if you are liberal or conservative. When marketing “certain” items one would be concern with the liberal\conservative makeup in an area.

  21. Wayne says:

    Matt
    Those polls wouldn’t happen to be college ones by chance?

  22. matt says:

    I’ve been meaning to watch “Breaking bad” and it seems I’m missing out here 🙁

    Wayne is it actually possible for you to stop stereotyping enough to have an adult conversation?

  23. James Joyner says:

    “I’ve been meaning to watch “Breaking bad” and it seems I’m missing out here :(”

    It’s not “The Wire” but it’s very good television.

  24. matt says:

    Damned you that is another one I’m supposed to be watching 🙁

  25. Kathleen says:

    Marijuana is not only habit forming, but I don’t know one marijuana user who is worth a plug nickle. It kills natural positive desires to succeed in life. So the serious mental and emotional damage, that destroys peoples desire to self relient is less important than “thinking” that Prop 19 will kill the drug cartels. The people, including Soros, and Susan Sirundone, Danny Glover, Snop Dog, etc must be high on the stuff. What reasoning is that?

  26. Kathleen says:

    What can one expect out of the Welfare State?

  27. matt says:

    Kathleen : You ever thought for a moment that the reason you don’t know a single marijuana user worth a “plug nickle” is due to your hostility towards the drug and it’s users? I know several highly paid and very successful people that use marijuana. I also know some certified geniuses that like to occasionally get high. These same people go to great pains to keep their usage a secret due to the negative social stigmas that you so elegantly demonstrated. Fortunately the average person is starting to realize that the facts do not match up with your reefer madness propaganda..

  28. Doug says:

    The hypocrites who voted no on prop 19 have also voted AGAINST freedom
    and common sense?

  29. Wayne says:

    Matt where am I stereotyping\generalizing that others are not? Is throwing insults the way to make an adult argument in your mind?

    I suppose if you can’t when the argument throw insults.

  30. matt says:

    This following quote is where you’re stereotyping..

    “What are you basing it on? Everyone you know does thing, it is what you think so it must be true deal, or some college poll taken by pot smokers somewhere?”

    That comes off as “SURELY TEH ONLY PEOPLE THAT SMOKE POT ARE THEM COLLEGE KIDS!!” to me..

    I didn’t answer your question as I thought surely you would spend a couple minutes on google looking at the variety of polls on the subject. It’d be much easier for you to decide which polling outfit to believe.