It’s Not A Matter of ‘Should We Legalize Marijuana’ — It’s A Matter of ‘How We Legalize’

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 5, 2010

    Following Tuesday night’s defeat of Prop. 19, I made the following statement to the press:

    “Throughout this campaign, even our opponents conceded that America’s present marijuana prohibition is a failure. They recognize that the question now isn’t ‘Should we legalize and regulate marijuana,’ but ‘How should we legalize and regulate marijuana?’

    A just-released, comprehensive post-election poll of California voters strongly supports this sentiment, and further points towards the likelihood of passing a successful marijuana regulation measure in 2012.

    Among some of the polls findings:

    * Fifty percent of California voters, regardless of how they voted on Prop. 19, “think the use of marijuana should be made legal.”

    * Further, of those voters who rejected Prop. 19, more than 30 percent believe that “marijuana should be legalized or penalties … should be reduced.”

    * A majority of Californian voters (52 percent to 37 percent) believe “laws against marijuana do more harm than good.”

    * Finally, the poll reaffirms that victory at the ballot box comes down most of all to voter turnout. The survey reports, “If youth had comprised the same percentage of the electorate on Tuesday as they do in Presidential election years, Prop. 19 would have been statistically tied.”

    You can read more here:

    Despite rejecting Prop. 19, Californians lean toward legalizing marijuana, poll finds
    Via The Los Angeles Times

    California voters rejected Prop. 19, but a post-election poll found that they still lean toward legalizing marijuana for recreational use and, if young voters had turned out as heavily on Tuesday as they do for presidential elections, the result would have been a close call.

    The survey, conducted by the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, suggests that California voters had qualms with this initiative, but remain open to the idea. A majority, 52%, said marijuana laws, like alcohol prohibition, do more harm than good.

    “There’s a fair amount of latent support for legalization in California,” said Anna Greenberg, the firm’s senior vice president. “It is our view, looking at this research, that if indeed legalization goes on ballot in 2012 in California, that it is poised to win.”

    Voters think marijuana should be legalized, 49% to 41%, with 10% uncertain, the poll found, but were evenly split over whether they thought it was inevitable in California.

    “The question about legalizing marijuana is no longer when, it’s no longer whether, it’s how,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “There’s a really strong body of people who will be ready to pull the lever in the future.”

    The poll also found that a quarter of those who voted on Proposition 19 had considered voting the other way, suggesting that a different initiative or a different campaign could change the result.

    “We have fluidity,” Greenberg said. “The issue does not have the kind of hard and fast kind of polarization that we’ve seen with other so-called moral or social issues.”

    Among voters who opposed Prop. 19, 31% said they believe marijuana should be legalized or penalties reduced, but they objected to the some specifics of the initiative.

    The poll did not probe what it was about the measure that did not appeal to these voters. “Among the no votes, we’re seeing a significant proportion who we believe will ultimately support marijuana legalization in the future,” Nadelmann said.

    Prop. 19 would have allowed adults 21 and older to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana or possess up to an ounce. But it also included a provision to protect marijuana users from discrimination that opponents, including the Chamber of Commerce, ridiculed. They claimed it would allow nurses and bus drivers to come to work stoned, which the campaign disputed.

    The poll found some evidence that this issue may have cut into the initiative’s support. Voters said by 50% to 44% that employers should have the right to fire workers who test positive for marijuana even if they arrive sober and ready to work.

    The initiative was the brainchild of Richard Lee, a medical marijuana businessman in Oakland who paid professionals to draft the measure and made the key decisions on its approach.

    Lee chose to give cities and counties the power to approve marijuana sales, not the state Legislature, a system that would allow a patchwork approach much like medical marijuana. The poll suggested that voters prefer that local control approach, finding that 44% trust city and county governments more to control marijuana, while 38% trust state government more.

    Greenberg Quinlan Rosner surveyed 796 voters who participated in the election by phone between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

    In short, the key now isn’t to convince voters that marijuana prohibition is a failure, but to find a consensus among voters regarding what is the best alternative.

    65 responses to “It’s Not A Matter of ‘Should We Legalize Marijuana’ — It’s A Matter of ‘How We Legalize’”

    1. Paul says:

      A lot of people (the young people that, “didnt turn out”) were against prop 19, believing that it would pave the way for industrial grown rather than small scale farming which can easily be done organically and with little environmental impact. It pretty much is summed up here:


      Personally i was all for prop 19 but i could see how these facts deterred some voters.

      [Editor’s note: Unfortunately your link is to self-interested, discredited and dishonest arguments put forward by what will be weird footnotes in Cannabis Prohibition’s long history…these folks claim they’re against the ‘corporate’ grows and government control…but do you see them protesting Oakland ceding seven acres of land to create four separate 60,000 square foot ‘corporate’ grows (that cost a minimum of $200K a year to hold the permit) or counties in CA banning outdoor cultivation of their medicine?

      No…you don’t. Odd, don’t you think?]

    2. Matt Buompensiero says:

      I’d like to see something protect recreational smokers in California that is similar to the Ravin decision of ’75 in Alaska.

      Let people grow and smoke at home in private. That’s what Nixon’s advisory board recommended. “Private use of cannabis” is in my opinion just as important a slogan as “Tax and regulate cannabis”. Nixon hated that term, “Private use of cannabis”, I say use it against him and his clones.

      The Drug Testing industry is pure evil, and it’s unclear to me whether to concede that provision in 2012. It would at least limit the problems of a stoner to job-related only. Maybe it would encourage companies to relax their draconian standards if we at least give them the choice.

      While the decrim. bill was a step forward, it is still flawed. Of course, any harsher penalties are even more ineffective.

      There are problems with the new decrim. law; it basically makes teens and young adults feel “content” with the fact that they risk nothing by smoking in public… they worry about a more regulated market denying them that perceived “freedom” of being able to smoke in public… in lax areas of the state.

      I believe a regulated market will allow for the proper smoking etiquette to be established.

    3. Ben Smokes Pot says:

      1. THC blood limit to define impairment for a “stoned driver”. It can even be a bogus level; GOD forbid some ppl would do some research on to marijuana to find if this level is valid. This is better than “no limit, the sky is limit, EVERYONE IS GONNA BE DRIVING HIGH” scare tactic.

      2. Not count on the Medical Marijuana Cartel. Get more conservatives on our side.

      3. Leave employee toking rights out of the initiative. Lets change that later through reform and the courts. Legalize first!

      This coupled with more young voters is a sure landslide.

    4. Chris C says:

      Don’t also forget the greedy clubs and growers who voted this down and still will vote down any legislation which stands between them and easy money.

    5. Tim says:

      Don’t forget to address the parents who were afraid their kids would start smoking pot if the measure had passed. We need to get rid of this illusion that they’re keeping their kids safe by going after stoners. “Yes on 19” should’ve hammered parents on the fact that it’s easier for kids to get marijuana than booze instead of briefly mentioning that fact in their ONE TV ad. Check out my anti-prohibition ad :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35v_oeK8nE0

      I also envision another ad. We see a guy in his late teens/early 20?s – a scruffy-looking character – selling weed to a kid who’s about 12 or 13. As the commercial begins, the kid walks away. The dealer looks at the camera and says, “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed. I’ve got a business to run; clients who count on me and money to make.” Then another aouple of kids walk up and he starts talking to them. Cut to the first kid walking down the street with his bag of weed. The kid looks at the camera and says, “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed. No one’s gonna believe I’m 21 for another 5 years at LEAST; even if I CAN find a good fake ID.” Then the voice-over guy says “Prohibition: Giving you the illusion of protecting your kids from marijuana since 1937. Vote Yes on 19.”

      You could also have another commercial with a guy who looks like he’s from a Mexican drug cartel. He looks at the camera and says, “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed. I’ve got a business to run.”

      Actually, what they should do now is make those same commercials, but instead of the characters saying “I HOPE they don’t legalize weed.”, have them say “Thanks, California!”. They could also show employees from under-funded government programs and have them say “Thanks, California. We didn’t need that money anyway.”

    6. Philip says:

      Every pro-marijuana organization needs to come together NOW and start working on 2012 to capitalize on the building momentum for legalization. Please NORML, MPP, Drug Policy Alliance, Prop 19 people, ect come together and organize supporters. We need to stand up, donate money, lobby, organize rallies and get marijuana legalized sooner rather than later. There needs to be a “Plan of Action” put together that will make 2012 our L-Day, legalization Day!!

    7. Philip says:

      One more thing, everyone please give as much money as you can to NORML or MPP, etc. Just give up “half a sack” and donate $25 to join NORML. It will save us all money in the long run if we get legalization.

    8. Steve says:

      thinking about these statistics causes me to believe that the reason it was voted down was the same reason its not moving forward here in CT. People had thought it would never happen, not lazy, but self defeated. I think it will pass in 2012 by the merit that the 500,000 people who didn’t vote this year will come out with confidence along with the Presidential election.

    9. Joel: the other Joel says:

      I wished I have a joint in my personal cookie jar to get over this, but my cookie jar has been empty for the past three years. Lets make 2012 a better year.

    10. Brian says:

      * Further, of those voters who rejected Prop. 19, more than 30 percent believe that “marijuana should be legalized or penalties … should be reduced.”

      * A majority of Californian voters (52 percent to 37 percent) believe “laws against marijuana do more harm than good.”

      Proof Mr. Armentano that the reason why legalization failed was because of the wording of Prop 19. We must either write a better one, or convince people that the regulations in such a bill are OK.

      However, you write over and over how our government is greedy/corrupt/wrong/however you want to put it… but you think all of a sudden when the legalize it that they will REGULATE marijuana distribution lacking greediness/corruption/what have you. Magically government will be our friend after 100 years of prohibition.

      NO. Legalization is inevitable. State governments (and of course the Feds) want an upper hand. THEY want their lawyers and lobbyists to write the bill in THEIR favor, not in ours. THAT is why so many people didn’t come out to the polls for Prop 19.

      So your job is to either petition for a better written bill. Or convince those who think like I do otherwise.

      [Editor’s note: Who is ‘we’. You? NORML? NORML didn’t write or pay for the initiative to get on the ballot…If you want to provide your college/amateur prognostications about how you’d prevail political victory, direct them to the Prop. 19 campaign.]