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California chamber begins radio ads to defeat Prop. 19

October 22, 2010 |  7:55 pm

The first major advertising in the campaign against the marijuana legalization initiative hit the airwaves Friday with the California Chamber of Commerce spending $250,000 for radio ads.

The spots say, in part, that Proposition 19 "is worded so broadly that it would hurt California’s economy, raise business costs and make it harder to create jobs."

The ads, which started Friday in Los Angeles and will begin Saturday in San Diego, significantly bolster the No on 19 campaign, which has been vastly overmatched in fundraising. As the opposition campaign entered the two weeks before the election, it reported having about $47,000 available, while the main pro-Proposition 19 committees had $450,000 to spend.

The chamber maintains the initiative would undermine the rights of employers to ensure their workers are not high, raising the risk of injury, lawsuits and increased insurance costs.

"When people understand what would happen in the workplace when this becomes law, they are inclined to vote no," said Denise Davis, the chamber’s spokeswoman. "We’re going to keep working to get the message out as broadly as we can right up until election day."

Tom Angell, a spokesman for the Yes on 19 campaign, said that voters know enough about marijuana not to be swayed by the chamber’s ads.

"This is the same old reefer madness scare tactics that the voters have been bombarded with for decades," he said.

Angell declined to disclose whether the campaign intends to advertise in the final week before the Nov. 2 election. "We’re still keeping our options open," he said.

The campaign has focused on a grass-roots effort to drive turnout among young people and minorities, as well as outreach to women with children who are seen as swing voters.

Proposition 19 would allow Californians 21 and older to grow and possess marijuana, and it would allow cities and counties to approve cultivation and sales. It includes a provision that protects people who use marijuana from discrimination, but also allows employers the right to address consumption that impairs job performance.

The chamber says this mean a worker could show up high and the employer could not act unless the worker caused an accident. The Yes on 19 campaign says employers would retain their rights under current state law to refuse to hire marijuana users or dismiss those who are impaired.

In the 60-second ad, a female narrator says, "Imagine coming out of surgery, and the nurse caring for you was high. Or having to work hard on your job to make up for a co-worker who shows up high on pot. It could happen in California if Proposition 19 passes."

-- John Hoeffel