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Home / Articles / Views / Danish Plan /  Who killed Proposition 19?
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Thursday, November 18,2010

Who killed Proposition 19?

By Paul Danish
from the film "Pumping Iron"

 

 

Polls taken in California last year and earlier this year found a majority of the state’s voters favored the legalization of marijuana.

 

But that wasn’t the way things worked out on Election Day.

Proposition 19 lost with 54 percent voting “no” and 46 percent voting “yes.” California is still counting votes, but as of late last week the vote totals were 4,156,418 in favor of legalization and 4,864,612 against.

So why did it lose? Well, for some of the same reasons that turn up whenever any controversial proposal is on the ballot, for starters.

First, when it comes to ballot proposals generally, the tendency is to vote no. When voters are uncertain about what a ballot measure will do — and they often are — they usually conclude that the safest course of action is to maintain the status quo by voting no.

Second, voters rarely decide how they are going to vote on initiatives on the weight of the evidence. A single weak argument against an initiative can trump several strong arguments in favor of it.

Third, as a result of the foregoing, ballot initiatives that have organized opposition — and Prop 19 did — are almost always at risk of losing. And if their supporters do not answer the opponents swiftly and aggressively, well, they almost always do lose.

Beyond that, who voted “no” and why did they do so? And for that matter who were the people who voted “yes”?

Exit polls taken in California on Election Day certainly contain that data, but so far I haven’t been able to find a complete demographic breakdown on the Web. (The exception is how Californians voted on Prop 19 by age.)

However, a national poll on marijuana legalization done by the Gallup organization in early October may shed some light on the question.

Gallup found that nationally 46 percent of those polled favored legalizing marijuana, while 50 percent wanted to keep it illegal. Four percent were undecided. If you treat the undecideds as “no” votes, Gallup’s result exactly matches the actual vote on Prop 19.

Gallup did break down its results by major demographic groups. And in the one case where exit poll demographic data was available — the vote on Prop 19 by age group — Gallup’s results and the actual vote very closely match.

Gallup found that 61 percent of those aged 18 to 29 favored legalizing marijuana. Prop 19 exit polling found that 59 percent of 18- to 29-year-old voters voted “yes.” The correlation between Gallup’s national results and Prop 19 exit polling is equally close for all other age groups.

So chances are Gallup’s national demographic findings aren’t all that different from the Prop 19 voter profile.


Why would the Woodstock generation be disinclined to support legalization?

Gallup found that the three groups showing the strongest support for legalization were liberals (72 percent in favor), 18- to 29-year-olds (61 percent), and Democrats (58 percent). The three groups in which Gallup found the least support were Republicans (29 percent), conservatives (30 percent), and those aged 65 years or older (32 percent).

No surprises here. Gallup also found that those in the middle of the political spectrum were split: 49 percent of independents and 51 percent of moderates favored legalization. So were those in the middle of the age spectrum: 49 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds favored legalizing pot.

Again, not particularly surprising. Gallup’s demographic breakdown produced two highly interesting results, however. The first was the figure for Boomers. Gallup found that among those aged 50 to 64, support for legalization was 43 percent. The 50 to 64 age group consists entirely of Boomers. The generation that made pot America’s favorite illegal drug doesn’t muster a majority for legalizing it. That’s important.

(Prop 19 exit polling found California Boomers — voters aged 45 to 64 in this case — voted against Prop 19 by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent. And they constituted 45 percent of the vote.)

The second interesting result was the breakdown by sex. Only 41 percent of women favored legalization. The comparable figure for men was 51 percent.

Why would women be less inclined to favor legalization than men? Concern about the effect of the greater availability of pot on children and on family stability, essentially the same reasons women supported prohibition a century ago, probably.

And why would the Woodstock generation be disinclined to support legalization? Well, 50 percent of Boomers are women, and a large proportion of Boomers, women and men, still have teenagers in the house or 20-somethings in college — in other words, kids at the age that worry you sick, especially when the subject of drugs comes up.

Who killed Prop 19? Bet it was parents.

Prop 19 backers have already said they intend to try again in two years. At least two groups want to try legalization initiatives in Colorado.

If those efforts are to have any chance of success, the first order of business for legalization proponents should be to start addressing the concerns of women and Boomer parents over legalization. Starting now. Not 30 days before the election.

We’ll talk more about this next time.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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I'm a parent.  I'd like to dispel a few myths.

(1) prohibition never stopped anyone (kid or adult) from smoking pot.  Weed is ubiquitous at any college dorm or high school.

(2) I'll sleep better knowing that if my kid smokes pot he won't get arrested.  An entanglement with the cops is far more dangerous than smoking pot.

(3) Yes, I'd rather my kid hit the books than smoke weed.  But I'd much rather him binge on pot than alcohol - at least I'll be assured that he'll be alive the next day.

(4) Criminals don't card.  Want 13 year olds smoking weed?  Then keep it illegal.

Parents are misinformed if they think prohibition keeps our kids safe.  Our kids would be much safer if pot were legal.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Hi, I'm Ernst and I am hosting a Town Meeting on the State Level for all of California in hops of fostering a consensus on what we want for Re-Legalization. http://California2012.org So far what I have come up with is rather Left leaning of these 5 things. 1. 18 2. 99 plants and whatever size garden holds them. 3. Private sales to other private parties when both are California residents. 4. Medical Bill of rights defining equal right to all medical people no mater where they live. 5 One central regulatory and Tax for the whole State. These things seem to be what California Voters want from what I can tell so far. But please do come and people California2012.org.. It's Free and easy!

 

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The reason Prop 19 failed was that Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties (the emerald triangle) voted against it. The economies of these counties depend on being able to grow big and prop 19 restricted you to a 5*5 plot and got the tax man involved.

 

Humboldt & Co. voted against 19, yes, but they hardly cost the election; they just don't have the votes. But the votes they do have were made with self-interest, and that big money is the same draw that attracts drug cartels and common thugs. Like it or not, lower pot prices, taxes and regulations are the goals of any legalization plan that's likely to receive statewide support. So now we know that Humboldt won't like it, and also that it won't matter in the least. They've just added a new twist to the arguments about why legalization is still needed.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Bud

It's a real stretch to say there was organized opposition to Prop. 19, but the last-minute announcement by Holder's office that the feds would aggressively prosecute pot crimes didn't help. Far more damaging was the lack of a well-financed campaign targeting those undecided voters with radio and TV spots. The usual deep pockets, having set their sights on 2012 as a presidential election year with better prospects, basically left Prop. 19 to twist in the wind with Richard Lee as its primary donor. The irony is that they'll benefit from his leadership when Prop. 19: The Sequel hits the ballot.

Also, while it had no bearing on the statewide outcome, it's important to note the emergence of a new breed of prohibitionist, those who are happy as clams with medical cannabis and the money they make growing it and selling it through dispensaries. Their mantra is "pot is legal enough," but they're pinning their hopes on a house of cards. Until non-medical cannabis is put on its own legal track, legitimate patients will suffer from stoner stigma in society at large and ongoing law enforcement harassment. Good medicine and good public policy demand better, and we as voters should too.

 

 

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Right: prohibitionists worry that legalization will lead to places where teenagers will be able to buy marijuana. These places already exist. They're called high schools. If I may make an unseemly plug for my book, "Letter to a Prohibitionist," available now at Amazon, I expand on everything that Flutie has said.

 

You go, Barry!

 

 
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