Associated Press, Published November 03 2010
Legalize-marijuana measure loses in CaliforniaSAN FRANCISCO — Warned of dangers and legal chaos, California voters Tuesday rejected a measure that would have made their state the first to legalize the use and sale of marijuana.
The spirited campaign over Proposition 19 had pitted the state's political and law enforcement establishment against determined activists seeking to end the prohibition of pot.
It was by far the highest-profile of the 160 ballot measures being decided in 37 states. Other measures dealt with abortion, tax cuts and health care reform.
On a night of conservative advances in much of the country, Massachusetts voters spurned a chance to cut their taxes — rejecting a proposal to lower the state sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent. Critics said the cut would have forced the state to slash $2.5 billion in services, including local aid to cities and towns.
In Oklahoma, voters overwhelmingly passed three measures that had dismayed some progressive and immigrants-rights groups. One makes English the state's "common and unifying language," another requires a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, and the third prohibits state courts from considering international law or Islamic law when deciding cases.
California's marijuana proposal — titled the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act — would have allowed adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot, consume it in nonpublic places as long as no children were present, and grow it in small private plots.
Proposition 19 also would have authorized local governments to permit commercial pot cultivation, as well as the sale and use of marijuana at licensed establishments.
Proponents pitched it as a sensible, though unprecedented, experiment that would provide much-needed revenue for the cash-strapped state, dent the drug-related violence in Mexico by causing pot prices to plummet, and reduce marijuana arrests that they say disproportionately target minority youth.
The state branches of the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens endorsed it, as did several retired police chiefs. However, every major newspaper, both political parties, the two candidates for governor and all but a handful of leading politicians came out against it.
Federal officials said they would continue enforcing laws against marijuana possession and sales if the initiative had passed.
Even facing defeat, Prop 19 supporters said they were buoyed by a new Gallup poll showing that national support for legalizing marijuana has reached an all-time high of 46 percent. Gallup said majority support could come within a few years if recent trends continue.
In South Dakota, voters rejected a measure to legalize medical marijuana — a step already taken by California and 13 other states. A medical marijuana measure also was on Arizona's ballot, and Oregon voters were deciding whether to expand the state's current medical marijuana law by authorizing state-licensed dispensaries.
David Crary reported from New York.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.