Prop. 19 Smoked -- Marijuana Supporters Promise New Legalization Effort

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Wait 'til next year...
As the national media will gladly tell you, people are smoking weed in San Francisco. People -- with and without medical marijuana recommendations -- smoked weed yesterday and they'll do so today, and they were going to do so no matter what happened with Proposition 19, the Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010.

Which failed last night. Voters rejected the historic marijuana semi-legalization ballot measure -- which would have made California the first state in the Union to allow adults 21 or over to possess and transport up to an ounce of cannabis as well as grow small amounts for personal use. The pro-marijuana campaign conceded at 10 p.m. last night; overall the measure garnered 46.2 percent of the vote.

Marijuana guru and Prop. 19 sponsor Richard Lee called the loss a "tremendous moral victory" and pledged another try in 2012. "It has become clear that the legalization of marijuana is no longer a question of if but of when," the statement read. "Millions now understand it's time to develop an exit strategy for the failed war on marijuana. ... We will come back [in 2012], stronger than ever."


The defeat could be seen as a victory for an underdog. Opponents of the measure were heavily outspent by supporters: No on 19 committee Public Safety First raised $300,000, while Yes on 19's supporters raised $3.5 million, records show.

Roger Salazar, the Sacramento-based attorney serving as Public Safety First's spokesman, did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Much of the Yes on 19 cash was Richard Lee's. Lee spent over $1 million of his own money just to put the initiative on the ballot. A host of celebrities -- led by $1 million from George Soros -- also chipped in to aid the measure.

Chief sponsors of No on 19 included Mothers Against Drunk Driving, numerous law enforcement agencies across the state -- sheriff's departments, the CHP and the prison guards.

Not a few medical marijuana patients and advocates, including San Francisco's Dennis Peron, were odd bedfellows with law enforcement in opposing Prop. 19 -- though for different reasons.

One reason why Prop. 19 failed -- and was opposed by medical marijuana dispensary owners, patients and pot growers in places like Mendocino and Humboldt counties -- is confusion. The law left much up to chance: who would be allowed to sell marijuana and how was unclear, what would happen to the state's medical marijuana laws was unclear, and exactly how the state's law enforcement community would react to so much uncertainty was very unclear.

"I'm disappointed that Prop 19 wasn't drafted more clearly," noted supporter Erich Pearson, founder of the SPARC dispensary in San Francisco. "Polls consistently show that a majority of Californians support marijuana legalization, but Prop. 19's confusing approach made a lot of people uncomfortable."

A clear statement of disapproval from the White House, sent via Attorney General Eric Holder, didn't help either.

"The death blow was AG Holder's statement against 19, which meant they endorse status quo," said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the author of San Francisco's medical cannabis laws. "And that, too, is failure."

So now it's back to the drawing board for the state's marijuana advocates, who were split over Prop. 19's merits to begin with.

Santa Cruz-based Michael Jolson is circulating a ballot measure that would legalize hemp cultivation in California for the 2012 election cycle - which Prop. 19 did not do -- but he has limited resources. Still, "Prop 19 catapulted a debate on legalization of cannabis in California throughout the world," Jolson said, "and Jack's Herer's California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative 2012 seeks to re-legalize cannabis hemp -- 100 percent --once and for all!"

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