OAKLAND (CBS 5 / AP) — California voters defied their trendsetting image Tuesday night and rejected a ballot measure that would have made the state the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana use and sales.

Proposition 19, a ballot initiative also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, led in just seven of the state’s 58 counties – all of them in Northern California.

Supporters blamed the outcome on the older, more conservative leanings of voters who participate in midterm elections and pledged to be back again in two years.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

“It’s still a historic moment in this very long struggle to end decades of failed marijuana prohibition,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Project. “Unquestionably, because of Proposition 19, marijuana legalization initiatives will be on the ballot in a number of states in 2012, and California is in the mix.”

The measure would have allowed adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot, to consume it in nonpublic places as long as no children are present and to grow it in 25-square foot private plots.

It also would have authorized local governments to permit and tax commercial pot cultivation, manufacturing of cannabis-infused products and the sale and use of marijuana at licensed establishments.

Proponents had pitched the initiative as a sensible, if historic experiment that would provide much-needed revenue for the state, dent the drug-related violence in Mexico by causing pot prices to plummet and reduce nonviolent marijuana arrests that they say disproportionately target minority youth.

Opponents raised the specters of increased addiction, drug-addled drivers and a costly showdown with federal drug agents while maintaining the initiative would create an enforcement nightmare if some communities allowed marijuana to be sold like alcohol and enjoyed at neighborhood “smoke-easies” while their neighbors tried to remain pot-free.

“If they think they are going to be back in two years, they must be smoking something,” Tim Rosales, who managed the No on 19 campaign, said Tuesday night. “This is a state that just bucked the national trend and went pretty hard on the Democratic side, but yet in the same vote opposed Prop 19. I think that says volumes as far as where California voters are on this issue.”

Despite what would have seemed like its natural appeal with residents in a state where marijuana already is easily available at storefront medical marijuana dispensaries, popular support for Proposition 19 also was hampered by opposition from some medical marijuana activists, growers and providers.

They said they feared the system they created in the 14 years since California became the first state to legalize medical use of marijuana would be taken over by corporations or lose its purpose if the drug was sanctioned for personal pleasure.

Proposition 19 was the brainchild of Richard Lee, an Oakland entrepreneur who owns a dispensary, a medical marijuana trade school, and marijuana-themed gift store. Outside Oaksterdam University on Tuesday night, a young crowd of about 100 people milled around while lighting up joints and pipes.

In the weeks leading up to the election, federal officials said they planned to continue enforcing laws making marijuana possession and sales illegal and were considering suing to overturn the California initiative if voters approved it.

“Today, Californians recognized that legalizing marijuana will not make our citizens healthier, solve California’s budget crisis, or reduce drug related violence in Mexico,” White House Drug Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske said.

Leaders of several Latin American nations on the front lines of the drug war also condemned Proposition 19, saying they thought it would encourage drug use and do nothing to curtail drug-related violence.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (13)
  1. too bad potheads!! says:

    YEAH!!! Way to go reasonable, hard working citizens of California!!!

  2. DU says:

    ignorant, you are probably one of the many that voted against prop 19 without knowing the facts. Why would you want drug cartel to continue benefiting from the illegalization of a harmless herb. Yes, lets continue to complain about raised taxes but lets also support billions of dollars spent in regulatory actions and correctional actions for this herb, that in my, and many others, eyes is much less of a problem than alcohol which we embrace with open arms. Wake up people, I hope you get smart by next time to vote.

    1. mazadoran says:

      drug cartel? when its legalize the BIG COMPANY is gonna take over the money which they r the same drug cartel…the one who makes cigarattes, also once it was legalize u kno how many local dealer would lose their jobs selling it? why dont we legalize cocaine too ? when those people loses their jobs…the crime rate is gonna go up

  3. lily says:

    BOO!!! And, my guess is that plenty of those who voted against this measure somehow think their “recreational” drinking is not a problem. I’ve seen pot do soooo much less harm than alcohol and recreational pot smokers still be “hard-working citizens of California”. We need money and less crowded prisons so this is obviously a no-brainer to me…and I don’t smoke pot, so by “no-brainer” I’m not implying anything in particular about brain cell production.

  4. Nick says:

    Honestly, it was just a poorly-written law. If pot were a pig, all this would do is legalize bacon. Everything else would still be illegal, untaxable, and simply unhelpful.

    I don’t smoke or drink or do anything harder than aspirin, but I have no moral objection to pot, either. I still voted no, though–It wouldn’t do anything for the industry in Humboldt or elsewhere, and that’s where the tax revenue would come from. Twenty-five square feet per private residence and one ounce of posession for personal use won’t provide any revenue and won’t help the farmers.

    Try again, only this time do it right.

    1. DU says:

      What about the billions we pay out in taxes for regulation of marijuana? i would rather have those billions applied to school or our communities, wouldnt you? That is where the benefit would come from not too mention alcohol (legal under a similar law) brings in much money from the recreational use in clubs and such. People would still purchase in outside vendors bringin in money, your argument is slightly on the weak side for voting no

  5. James says:

    How can you post this article with only 22% of the precincts reporting!!

    1. DU says:

      where do you get your updated information James?

  6. Ant says:

    The stoners got too lazy to vote in time

  7. Deb says:

    It’s a sad day in America and California. I’m hopeful that this herb is legalized in my lifetime; we have so many more important issues worldwide to be concerned with rather than interfere with peoples private choices.

  8. DU says:

    well said Deb. I hope we can see better use of our tax dollars and less time spent on this harmless thing. Maybe even motion to band alcohol (but do not try to take that away says all those opposing the less harmful substance). I would never do that though, because although we have the occasional idiot abuse alcohol (just like marijuana abuse) there are far more responsible alcohol drinkers (Just like responsible marijuana users).

  9. Andy says:

    Oh no! Pot wont be legal!!

    So…. this really wont change a whole lot. I will continue to smoke and I’m positive that all of the other stoners out there will too. It’s too bad that the state couldn’t make any money off of it.

  10. Miguelito says:

    Prohibition doesn’t work and it certainly hasn’t prevented tens of millions of Americans from smoking weed or using other illegal substances. What it does provide is a massive influx of cash to the privatized prison industrial complex who make billions of dollars incarcerating people on racist drug laws.

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