California voters decided against the adoption of Proposition 19, which would have legalized possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana by adults and allow cities and counties to regulate sales of marijuana within their jurisdictions. A win at the ballot would have been a first of its kind in U.S. history.
Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance offered this statement:
California’s Proposition 19 may not have won a majority of votes yesterday, but it already represents an extraordinary victory for the broader movement to legalize marijuana. Its mere presence on the ballot, combined with a well run campaign, transformed public dialogue about marijuana and marijuana policy.
Prop. 19 both elevated and legitimized public discourse about marijuana and marijuana policy. The media coverage, around the country and internationally, has been exceptional, both in quantity and quality. The campaign forged an unprecedented coalition of drug policy reformers, mainstream civil rights groups, organized labor, and a large contingent of outspoken retired law enforcement figures.
There’s now solid and increasing evidence that marijuana legalization is an issue that young people care about a lot – and that putting it on the ballot increases the chances that they’ll actually vote. Both major parties have no choice but to pay attention, especially when the political allegiances of young voters are very much up for grabs.
For those of us engaged in long term strategizing on marijuana law reform, the plan remains the same: to put the issue to voters in states where polls show majority support for legalizing marijuana, and to introduce similar bills in state legislatures. It’s too soon to say whether the issue will be back on the ballot in California in 2012, but at the very least we know that a bill to tax and regulate marijuana will be considered by the state legislature, just as one was earlier this year.