The Battle of California: Marijuana Vote In 10 Days

Almost everyone watching the epochal Proposition 19 battle in California — the voter initiative that would legalize and regulate cannabis for adults, and allow its taxation by local governments — realizes that the implications and symbolic significance of the vote goes far beyond the baby steps included in the language of the measure.

What’s at stake? The people of the Golden State have a chance to stand up to the tired old orthodoxy of “Just Say No” and replace it with the “Just Say Now” of the marijuana movement.

At long last, voters have a chance to take a first step out of the cultural trance enforced upon the entire nation since cannabis prohibition began in 1937 — a chance to find a better way to deal with the marijuana question.

Predictably, the anti-pot forces have brought everything they have — mostly hyperbole, in other words — to the battle. To hear them tell it, California’s very future is at stake, and not only that but perhaps the fate of civilization as well. It’d be a lot easier to smile about it if these folks weren’t completely serious — as serious as they were a couple years ago in their successful campaign to make Prop 8 the law of the land in California, banning gay marriages.

And yes, one of the biggest anti-Prop 19 groups has pretty much the same people as ran one of the pro-Prop 8 groups that stunk up the election last time with their innuendoes, anti-gay bias and snidely ignorant talking points. This time pot’s the demon, instead of gay couples.

The news hasn’t all been encouraging this week for pot proponents, as at least two major polls show the anti-marijuana vote surging in the last days before the election.

But as pointed out by Yes On 19, the anti-marijuana stigma could be significantly throwing off live polling. After all, a lot of people are still uncomfortable telling strangers they are in favor of marijuana legalization.

Backing up this hypothesis is the huge divide between the level of support expressed for Prop 19 with two different methodologies — live interviews versus automated phone polling. Yes On 19 found that if an individual is responding only to a computer program, they are much more likely to express support for the initiative.

While recent live interviews showed 41 percent Yes and 46 percent No responses, automated interviews told a different story: 56 percent of respondents chose Yes with only 41 percent No.

“There is still a stigma in many communities attached to marijuana use which could make some voters embarrassed to tell a stranger over the phone they plan to vote for legalization,” said Jon Walker of Firedoglake.

Automatic interviews have consistently shown greater support for the initiative. SurveyUSA, using mostly automated interviews, recently found Prop 19 winning 48-44, while PPIC, using live interviews, had it losing 44-49.

This effect seems to be even more pronounced among certain groups, particularly young voters. In live interviews, voters under 30 support Prop 19 only 49-37. But in the automatic interviews, young voters support the measure by an overwhelming 73-22 margin.

“The ability to do a straight-up comparison of the results of automated versus live interview polling helps explain some of the wild discrepancies we’ve been seeing in Prop 19 polling of late,” Walker said. “The results provide very positive news for supporters of the measure, and if they are correct, Prop 19 will likely become law.”

“We’re confident that when Californians find themselves in the privacy of voting booths on November 2, they will vote to end decades of failed and harmful marijuana policies,” said Dan Newman, a political strategist working with the Yes On 19 campaign. “Very few people think the current policy is working.”

About the author: Steve Elliott, a working journalist since 1982, is editor of Toke of the Town, Village Voice Media’s site of cannabis news, views, rumor and humor.


19 Responses to The Battle of California: Marijuana Vote In 10 Days

  1. Few People Realize October 23, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Few people want to face this following grim fact: the War on Drugs and prohibition of cannabis has resulted in countless deaths each and every year since 1937. What will two more years bring to our world: more dead people. If Prop 19 fails it will unfortunately equate directly to the loss and abuse of human life. It’s so sad but absolutely true. A no vote could wind up ACTUALLY KILLING PEOPLE! YES ON 19!

  2. Few People Realize October 23, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Few people want to face the fact that the DEA is currently being paid to pull weeds. That’s a gardeners work, to pull, smoke, or build houses and cars out of their plants. Get the DEA to stop spending tax payer money on pulling weeds! They must be afraid of meth dealers who have AK-47’s, because, heck, those people are actually dangerous!

  3. yumita yumara October 23, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Why do people compare prop 19 to prop 8? Weed has nothing to with gay marriage.

    YES ON 19!

    • adhd October 23, 2010 at 3:53 pm

      it has actually, the LGBT community were v helpful in getting prop 215 to pass, plus its about eqality, gays and stoners are persecuted groups

  4. Justin October 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    With Prop 19, we have the opportunity to tell the world that the pure insanity and total evil of cannabis prohibition will not be stood for any longer.

  5. Bon Gload October 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm


  6. Bob October 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Proposition 19 is a scam designed by a couple of rich businessmen in Oakland to make themselves more rich. Now people are starting to figure that out. It isn’t even a real ‘people’s initiative’, but a sad example of how money can be used to buy legislation.

    Personally, I favor legalization. But when you look at the dark underside of Proposition 19, you’ll see that it is not only bad for the state’s economy but also for individual marijuana users.

    An excellent website that explains what’s wrong with Prop 19 and where it came from is They’re a group of pot users and even they don’t want 19.

    Also, as of Oct 1, 2010, possessing an ounce of pot in California has ALREADY been decriminalized (no criminal charges, record or court). So who needs 19 anyway ? Other than big companies.

    Now you can wave an ounce in front of police and at worst they might give you a ticket.

    • uglyNeo October 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

      The “decriminalized” you speak of still allows for a money trail directly into drug cartels’ pockets, not the states.’ Prop . 19 allows for much needed regulation and will hopefully echo across the country the importance of ending prohibition based on racism and mendacious claims.

    • Christian October 25, 2010 at 8:20 am

      Under the new “decriminalization” rule, you can still lose your house, your freedom, and your kids for growing even one single marijuana plant.

      Jesus said, Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. (Matthew 7:12).

      I know I would not want my child sent to jail with the sexual predators, or my aging parents to have their house confiscated and sold by the police, over a little marijuana.

      We can change the world when we vote.

  7. Mark October 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I don’t know what to say about these polls. I work in a large company, mostly of 25 to 45 year olds. Most people will openly state that they will vote “yes,” but say they don’t even plan to mark anything else on the ballot.

    Last month the “boss” started a $500 reward for the first person to get called on their personal phone at work by a pollster asking about Prop 19 and legalization. Last week, at the 2 week and counting mark, the amount was boosted to $1000.

    I’m kind of figuring these pollsters are calling retirees and old folks homes.

  8. Ellen October 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    What is at stake? Freedom and justice, and the possibility of a domino effect worldwide that would end a silly and costly prohibition. Yes to prop 19.

  9. Bilgeman October 23, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Just out of curiosity, do you suppose that smoking dope will be allowed in places that smoking cigarettes is banned,(that seems to be pretty much EVERYWHERE), or do you foresee some kind of dispensation?

    I’m honestly curious, since I am ragingly ambivalent on whether this prop passes or not.

    Frankly, California’s entire Proposition feature is a gigantic farce.

    Prop 187 passed, and was tied up in the courts, as was Prop 8…so that’s the proof of the pudding for Excremento acceding to the will of the people as expressed in popular referenda doesn’t it ?

    What makes you think that passing Prop 19 will not result in the exact same procedural gamesmanship employed to thwart 187 and 8?

    Expensive exercises in futility, if you ask me.

  10. Sean October 23, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Why should your perceptions wrong or right, have control over my safe freedoms. I don’t smoke pot. But I am not going to hurt someone just because I am high. And when I drive I actually pay MORE attention if I am high. And you know what most of these reasons not to allow legalization have more to do with grace than reality. Stop worrying about who supports who and give us our freedom outlined in the constitution. Drugs are not necessarily bad for driving. Caffiene is actually promoted as good for driving. Pot inhibits you drive to act in social situations. And you are less likely to want to run a red light, get into road rage, and more likely to keep your eyes on your surroundings. The people saying this isn’t true are the same people who have enver smoked pot because they think it is a lot more than it is. Pot is as strong as caffiene. It is a weak drug compared to other legal drugs like alcohol and many over he counter medications. Also there are many other drugs like oxycodine, legal herione, that are much worse for your ability to pay attention to the world around you. If none of this has gotten to you, consider that it’s really about money. Now that pot is halfway legal as a medication, the price has stayed about the same as it was and the clubs are making a lot of money. And so the clubs are very much against it as are the growers making doctor’s salaries. But consider that if pot were legal then the clubs could go back to being what they are supposed to be: clinics for cancer patients and glaucoma, and people who want to enjoy themselves can do so without having to lie. Give pot pot smokers a little grace please, if you have any caring for other people to do something that doesn’t harm other people in any way. And can also lead to greater creativity, better problem solving, more in depth thinking, more relaxed beings, and happier people. Why should we be against such good things?

    • Bilgeman October 24, 2010 at 8:44 am

      “And when I drive I actually pay MORE attention if I am high.”

      I hope that you don’t mind your airline pilot saying essentially the same thing.

      “Drugs are not necessarily bad for driving. ”

      Or the fellow driving the 18-wheeler hauling 40 tons of cargo right behind your car, with your child strapped into their car-seat in the back seat.

      If you are trying to promote decriminalization of cannabis, you ain’t doing yourself any favors here, pal.

      • Trommy October 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

        I don’t think he is trying to say that. The prohibitionists only argument at this point is people will drive stoned. It is much more dangerous to drive drunk or on prescription medicine than after smoking Marijuana. But no one should drive impaired period. The argument you are putting forward would be the same if the 18 wheeler driver were drunk or on pain killers. People that are going to drive intoxicated are going to do it if drunk, out of their minds on pain killers or high on weed. I personally would prefer the latter if people are going to be stupid. I don’t believe Marijuana makes people out of their minds like alcohol and pain killers do.

        • Bilgeman October 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm

          “I don’t believe Marijuana makes people out of their minds like alcohol and pain killers do.”

          Me either, necessarily, but then I think it certainly doesn’t help, either.

          The point is that if Smokin’ Sean up there REALLY wants to pass this Prop so that he can hit up his “Aqua-Buddha” without the Dope Fuzz busting down his door, snatching him up off his couch and making him eat carpet while they slap the cuffs on him, he’d do himself a whole heapin’ bong-full of good by not mentioning operating any motor vehicle while “listening to Foghat” AT ALL.

          Can you see through the apparent haze in your dope-fogged mentality to grokk the truth in that, man?

  11. Christian October 25, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Jesus said, Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. (Matthew 7:12).

    I know I would not want my child sent to jail with the sexual predators, or my aging parents to have their house confiscated and sold by the police, over a little marijuana.

    We can change the world when we vote.

  12. Leonard Krivitsky, MD October 26, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Cannabis should never have been made illegal to begin with. It has been used as a medicinal plant and as a recreational substance since time immemorial. Cannabis is not physically addictive, as its use does not lead to the development of a physical withdrawal syndrome. The so-called “gateway drug” theory has been completely discredited as invalid, and declared “half-baked” by a recent large study. At the same time is is an accepted scientific fact that Cannabis use suppresses violent behavior, which I believe is very important from the public safety point of view. It is also being proven that Cannabis may serve as an “exit” substance for recovering alcoholics/hard drug/prescription drug abusers, which has a potential of alleviating the Nation’s drug and alcohol problem. In addition to being very useful in treating many conditions, Cannabis may even have a preventative value for such devastating illnesses as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. YES to California Prop. 19!

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