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Despite rejecting Prop. 19, Californians lean toward legalizing marijuana, poll finds

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.”

Nadelmann and the Drug Policy Alliance played a key role in the campaign, bringing a late rush of money to help fund a final advertising blitz.

The poll was paid for by Peter B. Lewis, a retired insurance company executive. Lewis donated $159,005 to the Drug Policy Alliance’s campaign for Proposition 19 and was one of the backers of California’s 1996 medical marijuana initiative.

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.

-- John Hoeffel

Comments () | Archives (61)

Another blow for legalisation, but good to see people's attitudes changing. Couldn't monthly performance assessments address the problem of people being stoned at work? I don't think everyone should be drug tested, but for certain professions it should be mandatory (surgeons, emergency response personnel, bus drivers etc). I think once these issues are ironed out, the majority of California voters will be in favour of legalisation. It's been a long road but I think we're closer than ever =)

The opinion of 796 is not a reasonable sample to determine anything when compared to 3-15 million potential voters. I supported Prop 19 even though it had some flaws. Change has gotta start somewhere. The primary reason I voted YES on 19 was to expand freedom of choice and end prohibition once and for all. People who use cannabis for any number of logical reasons will not stop just because our gov't fails to act with rational aforethought. If legalizing cannabis is promoted as exercising freedom and simultaneously ending prohibition it will pass with flying colors. Look for this to happen in 2012.

No need to waste time on this 'voting' thing, just file a law suit, and let an active judge declare banning marijuana is unconstitutional. It violates fifth amendment. Done.

If the marijuana advocates write a decent initiative for 2012, I will vote for it. But I doubt they will. Prop 19 was a ridiculously dumb initiative (some of us do read the text, you know). To pass, an initiative should say that marijuana should be treated just like alcohol - meaning that a merchant would have to get both strict city approval AND state approval, with community input considered, before they could sell a dollar's worth. That would be real regulation. But I don't think the marijuana advocates will do that - most of them still have pretty much a criminal mindset, from what I have seen.

An organized minority will defeat an indifferent majority.

As time passes, who will leave the scene faster: older hippies and tolerant people, or socially reactionaries? And will young people become more conservative as they age? Check back in 20 years I guess.

its little late for now to lean on legalization. Wait for 2 more years.

Yeah, it's unfortunate that we proponents of Proposition 19 lost control of the narrative for the debate with the "protection-from-employer" clause. I didn't notice a cohesive reregulation argument emerge that accounted for the heavy conservative turnout resulting from the national political mood.

The campaign attempted to appeal to libertarian principles by decrying all the excessive funding that goes to investigating, citing, adjudicating, and incarcerating marijuana-based offenses. This was easily countered with a simple "tough on crime" mentality, though, and should not have been the leading argument.

The best way to frame the argument, I believe, is an unassailable stalwart in any debate: "Won't someone just think of the children!?" While the no on Proposition 19 crowd used this effectively, I think the statement was an underutilized double-edged sword here: "Drug dealers don't check ID" would have been an effective slogan.

While I'm saddened by defeat in this battle, I think we'll winning this memetic war eventually. Here's to 2012! Pardon me, it's a special time of day...

why did people want prop 19 to pass? to me it looks like the government saw how much money could be gained by medical mj, so they are thinking greed now. instead they should COMPLETELY DECRIMINALIZE MARIJUANA instead. decriminalizing > making it "legal - with all this fine print". legalizing marijuana really wont hurt the drug cartels. the weed the drug cartels sell = schwag. aka low quality. it serves a different customer base. thats never going to change. wake up people. i will vote no for it next time around too. stick with MMJ (which is a farce - it is so easy to obtain one) and leave it at that. I've been in those doctors offices and seen 10 people pass through in the course of an hour. real legitimate, right ????? ;)

Will Nichols: Do you want to test people in critical positions for cannabis use or cannabis impairment? Obviously cannabis impairment can't be tolerated, but there's no evidence based reason to worry more about last night's cannabis use than last night's alcohol use.

mansterEZ1, Why is 796 not a reasonable sample? Would 7960 suffice? Isn't a poll with a 3.5 margin of error legit?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the voters just weren't high enough.

Some really great thinking going on here- judge shopping, regular drug testing at work, ignoring the will of the people.

I don't suppose any blazers out there might actually stop using drugs, would they?

Or even consider (if only for a moment) that someone may have died as result of your drug habit?

Just a thought.

The editors of the LA Times told us to vote against 19 even though blacks are arrested for marijuana at 7 times the rate for whites in Los Angeles.

There's another way to fix that problem, they claimed. Legalizing marijuana is the wrong way to do it.

So I expect the editors who wrote that editorial to come up with a way to solve the problem of racial inequality in marijuana enforcement quite soon.

And if they don't, then we'll know just what kind of people they really are.

Wait, the vote was on Tuesday? Oh, man, and I was all ready to vote yes on 19 and stuff. But then I got high.

Republicans just forge elections as it profits them, Bush did it twice.

The proponents of Prop 19 did us a great service by creating a teachable moment as to who really supports civil liberties and who doesn’t.

The LA Times ran a whole series of editorials and negative articles against Prop 19 even including one piece entitled “A Conservative’s Guide to The Propositions” – as if the LA Times is now a bastion of conservatism.

Meanwhile that genuine mouthpiece of conservatism, The National Review, ran several articles in favor of Prop 19.

It’s not the libertarians, conservatives or TEA Partiers that oppose Prop 19.

It’s the Marxist Democrats and their official mouthpiece the LA Times.

California’s Prop 19 is not about marijuana. It’s about freedom. If these polls are correct, it only goes to confirm what most already know: California’s Marxist Democrats hate freedom.

“Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” - Ronald Reagan

We know from their written records that presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew marijuana on their farms in Virginia – and neither one so much as applied to the state for a permit.

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” – Thomas Jefferson

Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Clueless Comrade Barry have all admitted to smoking marijuana to get high. Together with The Father Of Our Nation and The Author of The Declaration of Independence, that’s at least five presidents of the United States that would be felons under the marijuana prohibition laws of the federal government as well as several states– even though their actions brought no harm to anyone.

This is ridiculous.

It makes no difference what “unintended consequences” some post-modern Tory may imagine concerning a man’s right to do that which does no harm to another. For the spirit of man to ascend, men must be free to make their own choices, even their own mistakes, especially, in fact, their own mistakes. The Founding Fathers understood this and supported a man’s right to make his own choices including his own mistakes.

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.” – George Washington

In the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, no one cares what you smoke or how many harmless plants you grow as long as you’re not out trying to rape, rob or murder somebody or figure out a way to scam a handout from your productive countrymen.

How can a man be said to be free if he doesn’t even have sovereignty over his own body?

We need to send these Nanny State Fascists back to Europe where they belong and return this country to the Rugged Individualists who know what freedom and free enterprise are all about.

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

Sic simper tyrannis.

they were to high to get up and vote or it was not that important. all the people who thought it was important did go out and vote. point made why it is and should not be legal. reason i voted no is because all the drug dealers. will sell it cheaper then stores who have overhead and have to tax it. they dealers just grow it anywhere cost time and water. now the guy selling it on the corner to kids says its his pot he is not selling it. cops have to let him go. besides the fact getting high and driving is not good. impaired is impaired drugs/pot or booze. there is a reason they call it wasted ,stoned,high. reason to smoke it is to get the above. yes i have smoked it and yes i got the above. beside parnoid first fews times. then muchies will make anyone drive no matter how how they got.

I agree with Pete. The initiative and campaign were flawed. There is a lot of actual intelligent backers of making marijuana legal. A Harvard professor recently produced research showing the effects of marijuana have minimal cognative effects, KCET did a series basically saying that marijuana is harmless as well as many other very credible references for legalizing it.

What I think people want to see is a responsible approach to legalization. List restrictions on it use. Restrict it's use to public venues (beaches, parks, etc) so people won't feel threatened or worry about having their young children exposed to it at a young age. State restricts with credible research and you'll have a bill.

A lot of people commenting on here don't realize that California is more conservative than you think. So L.A. Times puts out a feel good article for the pro-marijuana folks. Think of this, in the last election, voters passed a gay marriage ban, be it by a slim margin. More people voted "NO" on prop. 19 than voted "NO" on prop. 8. I might add that 4 other states voted "NO" on marijuana initiatives. That should tell everyone something. People would rather say "NO" on drugs. We should be making California a more family friendly drug-free environment for our future. Prop. 19 would not have furthered that goal.


Maybe I should consider moving to a very conservative and moral country before my children get affected!

I guess then we can legalize cocaine, LSD, Marry your Mom, Dad, sister, Brother, Dogs, Cats, and Birds What is our country coming too.

It's tough to make beer, vodka, whiskey, etc. at home... takes equipment and sometimes several processes and ingredients, but the cannabis plant grows wild. This may be the thing that makes it very difficult to regulate and unsavory for corporate domination. If it were legal and one could grow a plant in one's backyard for free, why go out and buy it at a store?

Prop 19 was really poorly written. Why doesn't someone take control of this and write a proposition that the paranoid religious right can stomach. At the end of the day, the reality is that pot is already legal in California.

Bummer. I guess "young voters" should have done the right thing ... and voted.

You sore losers can't even wait one week before you start beating the drum. Do you own pot fields in Mexico?

I can tell you the moment Prop. 19 failed. When Gil Kerlikowske showed up and made threats., pretty much making it clear that regardless of what our state and it's voters wanted, the Fed and the DEA would be camped on our doorstep if it passed. Nobody, absolutely nobody wants that.

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