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Will California Legalize Marijuana in 2012


The Public Policy Institute of California recently released a full breakdown of the 2010 election results. As expected, there was quite a bit of analysis dealing with Proposition 19. Feel free to click the link above and check it out for yourself; there are 37 pages of solid info. But for those of you that just want the highlights (probably why you’re looking at blogs right?), here are what I thought were the most interesting parts:

“Of the nine propositions on the November statewide ballot, Proposition 19–the unsuccessful measure to legalize marijuana–attracted the most interest among voters, and those who voted against it felt more strongly about the outcome than those who voted yes. These are among the key findings of a post-election survey released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with support from The James Irvine Foundation.

In the PPIC survey of 2,003 voters who reported participating in the election, 38 percent say they were most interested in Proposition 19, followed by 16 percent who name Proposition 23, the measure to suspend the state’s air pollution law (AB 32).”

“Proposition 19 lost by 6 points (47% yes, 53% no). Republicans (73%), Latinos (60%), whites (53%), women (58%), and older voters (58% ages 35 and older) voted no. Majorities of Democrats (56%) and independents (55%) voted yes, as did voters ages 18—34 (62%). Most voters say the outcome of the vote was very important (35%) or somewhat important (35%) to them. Just 18 percent of those who voted yes call the outcome very important, while 51 percent of those who voted no feel the same way.

Asked the open-ended question of why they voted for or against the measure, the top reason given by those voting yes is that it would have allowed marijuana to be taxed (29%). The next most frequently cited reasons: marijuana use is a personal issue or not a big deal (12%) and passage would have freed the police/courts to do other things (11%) or would have led to less crime and drug violence (10%). The top reasons given by those who voted against the measure are that drugs should be illegal (33%) and legalization is not good for the state (12%).

But on the general issue of legalization voters are more evenly divided than the vote on Proposition 19 indicates. When voters are asked more generally about whether they think marijuana should be made legal or not, 49 percent are in favor and 49 percent are opposed. Among those who voted no on the ballot measure, 11 percent favor legalization in general.”

“Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana in California and allowed it to be regulated and taxed, failed by 6 points (47% yes, 53% no). Partisan differences are clear, with majorities of Democrats (56%) and independents (55%) voting yes, and 73 percent of Republicans voting no. There are also differences across ideological groups, with seven in 10 liberals (69%) supporting the measure, and three in four conservatives (74%) opposing it. Moderates were divided (48% yes, 52% no). Voters ages 18 to 34 are far more likely than older voters to have voted yes. Majorities of Latinos (60%) and whites (53%) report voting no, as do a solid majority of women (58%). Men were divided (50% yes, 50% no).

The top reason given for voting yes on the measure, in an open-ended question, is that it would have allowed for the taxation of marijuana (29%). Yes-voters also say that marijuana use is a personal issue or not a big deal (12%), that it would have freed up the police/courts to do other things (11%), or that it would lead to less crime and drug violence (10%). Among no-voters, the top reasons given for opposition are that drugs should be illegal (33%), and that legalization is not good for the state (12%). Fewer cite child safety (8%), the potential conflict with federal law (7%), or that the initiative was poorly written (7%).”

“Seven in 10 voters say the outcome of the vote on Proposition 19 was very (35%) or somewhat (35%) important. No-voters are far more likely than yes-voters to consider the outcome very important (51% to 18%). Republicans (44%) are much more likely than Democrats (32%) or independents (27%) to say very important. Latinos (45%) are much more likely than whites (33%) to hold this view and the percentage saying very important decreases with education and income and is similar across age groups.”

“When asked more generally about whether they think marijuana should be legal or not, voters are divided (49% legal, 49% illegal). Similar to the vote on Proposition 19, Democrats (59%) and independents (57%) favor legalization, while most Republicans (69%) oppose it. Most Latinos (59%) think marijuana should not be legal, while whites are divided (50% legal, 47% illegal). Half of men favor legalization (52% legal, 45% illegal), while half of women say marijuana should be illegal (45% legal, 52% illegal). Similar to the vote on Proposition 19, voters age 18—34 (65%) favor legalization, while older voters prefer keeping it illegal. Among no-voters on Proposition 19, 11 percent favor legalization in general.”

To me, the single most important thing that can be taken away from this analysis is the final sentence, which I found a few times in the original document, “Among no-voters on Proposition 19, 11 percent favor legalization in general.” If marijuana legalization will become a reality in California in 2012, campaign managers and proposition authors will have to determine what exactly went wrong in that eleven percent. Because 2012 is a presidential election, I’m willing to wager that there will be an automatic bump on the support side. However, without targeting the eleven percent of swing voters from the 2010 election, a presidential bump will not be enough. It will be interesting to see what the 2012 initiative language will be compared to the 2010 version. Only time will tell…


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Johnny Green


  1. either through untreated pain or other drug war damage”.
    This exit poll and other data show why Prop 19 did not pass.
    1. Sixty percent of Mexicans voted against it. Why? Could it be because most of their money comes from the illegal sale of cocaine and MJ?
    2. The medicinal community was told that if Prop 19 passed that their rights would be voided.
    3. The folks who grow legally in the three “Emerald Triangle” counties voted “NO” because legalization would reduce the price of MJ and take away their $80,000 a year income.

  2. We can’t be too picky though. Anything is better than nothing. I think that despite its problems it would have been good to get Prop 19 to pass. We just need to get the ball rolling, get it legalized in one state so it happens in others and at the federal level. Whatever laws we start with will surely change over time. Everything will be modified and tweaked through the legislative process and new voter initiatives. That’s a given, because this is all so new and it’s going to take a while and no doubt will take some tweaks before the system is set up to work fairly well.

    Next time we have an initiative to legalize marijuana, I hope that everyone for legalizing will get up and get to the polls and get the thing passed, even if there are parts of the measure they don’t like. I really do not think we will ever see the feds legalize or at least not for a really long time, unless we start seeing it happen in states first. Then it’s on. Then the debate heats up like never before and it won’t be long before we see other countries legalizing and legalization at the federal level here.

  3. Lucky it didnt pass

    Prop 19 was a badly written prop. 18 to 21 would never vote for this prop even if they are pro legalizing

    The whole cannabis industry in Ca has been divided and that lost votes as well

    hopefully 2012 will bring a better written prop without all the bullshit

  4. Note that only people who voted were surveyed. Yes, we do need to worry about that 11% for legalizing who voted no on Prop 19. We need a better written propositon that doesn’t turn so many off. We’ll still have some who support legalization vote no, mainly because they see it as somethng that won’t work given that marijuana is illegal under federal law and it would be difficult to have a fully regulated legal marijuana industry making the state an accomplice in federal crimes and exposing all involved in the industry to federal prosection if they do all their reporting and operate completely out in the open. Hopefully, more of those people will understand that it’s not going to be any worse than the medical marijuana system and that even if we aren’t able to impliment a fully regulated industry because of the feds it will get the ball rolling across the nation and quicken the eventual federal legalization of marijuana that will open the door for states to regulate.

    That 11% is important, but what’s more important is that we get more who support legalization to the polls. That whole survey would have been different if more young people and more pot smokers of any age got to the polls when it was time to vote. The outcome of the election could very well have been different too. But, as the survey we’re talking about here points out, marijuana legalization is just not all that important of an issue to most people, even those who are for it. It’s very important to those who oppose us though.

    In 2012 we should see a lot better turnout among young voters because it is a presidential election year. Well over half of them will vote to legalize if a new initiative is on the ballot. Those who oppose us came out in force at the midterm election. There will be a little better turnout among older voters, but the really big increase will be among younger voters.

    We need a better initiative. It should be simple and not try to do too much, and not have a lot of poison pills in it. Even if it’s more symbolic than anything it would have a huge impact on marijuana legalization efforts around the world, certainly around the country. the longer and more complicated it is the more there will be for those who oppose us to pick at and use in there arguments against it. It should allow for taxation. It should largely leave medical marijuana alone. If it allows for growing it should only allow very small scale growing. They could even leave out the right to grow because if you want to grow all you have to do is get a medical marijuana card, something that’s dead easy to do. And, people need to keep in mind that this is just something for starters to get the ball rolling everywhere. Whatever we start with will surely see a lot of modifications as time goes on. We just have to get something to pass and it’s not so important that it be a stoner’s dream measure. The prize is legalization, with possession and licensed production and sales being legal. We can expand on that later maybe but up front we want to offend or scare off as few people as possible.

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