In 2010 the California ballot initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana failed. What lessons have we learned to help us succeed in 2012?
In November of 2010 California voted 54% to 46% not to legalize marijuana. This came as a devastating shock to the war on the drug war, as many polls had it passing. Within hours of its defeat, however, plans were being made to try again in 2012. Looking back on what happened in 2010, what can be done differently to guarantee our success?
If you look at California’s voting record nearly 70% support medical marijuana compared with only 46% for legalization. The 24% that only support medical are the reason why Prop 19 failed. The failure of the 2010 bill came from bad wording and bad public relations. To start with the name “Prop 19” has been replaced with simply, “The Marijuana Legalization Act of 2012.” Trying to sugarcoat the name makes it appear that you are tying to trick the voters.
The Marijuana Legalization Act of 2012 will include special provisions for people currently on medical marijuana. While Prop 19 would not have changed the status of medical recipients, this was not explicitly clear. While Prop 19 did not address medical rights, the M.L.A. would expressly protect them. Another group of medical supports who voted against legalization were the small growers. Prop 19 lost in all 3 of Humbldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties. These are the core region of the “emerald triangle” which currently produces most of the state’s marijuana. The M.L.A. will provide special protections for small time growers to prevent the “Wal-Martising” of pot.
Support for legalization is always highest in the younger demographic. Eighteen to twenty-five year olds should be the core supporters of legalization. Prop 19 would have stiffened possession penalties on people under 21 and anyone who provided them with marijuana. You can not pass a law that punishes your largest demographic of would be supporters. The MLA must leave penalties for eighteen to twenty one year old where they are.
The biggest of the problems with Prop 19 was people were claiming it was more than it was. Prop 19 would not stop the Mexican cartels, it would not balance California’s budget, and it would not bring peace on earth. Some of these claims were made based on the government’s own drug research. As anyone pushing for legalization should know, the government statistics lie. While we are normaly the ones benefiting from calling out our governments lies, it was easy to turn that against us in this case. When the MLA is coming up for a vote, we have to be honest about what it can and can’t accomplish.
There is one thing that could completely change prohibition on its own. Prohibition will end the moment the American Public is more afraid of prohibition then they are of marijuana. Using police and military powers to enforce a social paradigm must be viewed as the real enemy. America was founded on the right to believe and do what makes you happy, as long as it does not harm others. When Americans realize the harm caused by prohibition outweighs the harm caused by drugs, prohibition will end.