Opinion: Why Prop. 19 went up in smoke

By Steve Kubby

Although I was an early and loyal supporter of Control & Tax Cannabis 2010, which qualified for the California ballot as Prop. 19, I continued to forecast defeat for the initiative, based upon polling numbers.

Despite plenty of theories on why polling was wrong or didn’t matter, it mattered. The fact is that Prop. 19 never polled high enough to indicate a clear shot at victory. Of course, whenever I pointed out the polling problems, I was roundly criticized for being “negative”. Hopefully, if and when we get another shot at doing an initiative, polling will be given more weight than this time around.

One huge strike against Prop. 19 was attempting to pass a marijuana initiative during a mid-term election, when we already knew the demographics are much better for us during a presidential election. Everyone wanted to wait until 2012, especially the funders. Launching this year was foolhardy and premature, but the Prop. 19 crew held to their belief that hordes of young people would flood the election and save the day. Unfortunately, that cargo cult mentality failed to yield any significant results at the ballot box.

Another problem with Prop. 19 is that it was too conservative with too many weasel words. We expunged all the weasel words from Prop. 215, California’s historic medical marijuana initiative, and I wish the same had been done before Prop. 19 qualified for the ballot.

One of the worst and most damaging aspects of the Control & Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative was that it almost seemed like certain sections had been written by the cops. Pandering to law enforcement , as it clearly did, was not any help in getting votes and seriously damaged support by our own side. The history of marijuana initiatives has repeatedly shown that boldly worded initiatives like Prop. 215, do better than watered-down initiatives like 19.

I also question the wisdom of taxing marijuana. Yes, I know, lots of folks think it will make us safer to pay taxes, but I’ve yet to see that to be the case. We didn’t need taxes to sell voters on supporting Prop. 215, why do we need it now? Frankly, any taxation of cannabis will invite the same fishing expeditions that the police already conduct based upon plant numbers. I certainly hope the next initiative will focus on real legalization and not peddling a watered down version of decriminalization with a sin tax, like we saw with Prop. 19.

One of the first things we did with the Prop. 215 campaign was appoint a full time coordinator for activists. I personally nominated Chris Conrad and Mike Norris for the job. However, when I suggested the same to Lee, he dismissed the idea. I told him at the time he was making a mistake, but Rich didn’t see it that way. That one error was indeed a very serious mistake, because it led to the formation of a No on 19 group of activists who caused as much harm as the narcs and regular foes of legalization.

Despite the problems, Richard Lee and his crew still deserve a big round of applause for a brilliant campaign that caught the attention of the whole world. The entire Prop. 19 crew can be proud of their historic and valuable effort.

Steve Kubby of South Lake Tahoe helped write Proposition 215.

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Comments (13)
  1. NoToSLTStoners says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    Did I just get creamed in an election yesterday? Keep walking… Nothing to see here, folks!

  2. Leland Faegre says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    This thoughtful post-mortem is over the heads of most government-school educated citizens….

  3. fpogen says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    Or that it was written by Richard Lee and his buddies, who were going to get rich from the limitations of the bill. Oakland pre approved them all for large warehouses. The proposition tried to concentrate production in few areas, with few people. It was a power grab.
    There was nothing in there about amnesty.
    Another special interest proposition written by industry, just like Prop 23, and the Sierra Pacific proposition earlier.
    We saw through the BS. Lots of pro marijuana people voted prop 19 down.

    Marijuana is decriminalized for the general population, and legal for the medical users.

  4. dogwoman says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I kind of thought that the reason the initiative was on the mid-term ballot was to ensure that the young people would come and vote, thus ensuring Boxer’s and Brown’s wins.
    There was no way 19 would pass. There’s way too much money involved in keeping it illegal for the general public. Law enforcement on both state and federal levels get a LOT of funding erradicating it. And the medical marijuana growers and sellers have a strong interest in keeping the supply limited and the prices up. As do the Mexican drug cartels and your local dealer.
    Our drug laws are absurd.

  5. Leland Faegre says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    Drug Cartels and Moral Crusaders who’ve won a great victory in California! The Criminal Justice system can continue to tax citizens to incarcerate them for engaging in a harmless private activity thanks to the loss of Prop. 19.

    —Judge Andrew Napolitano, FOX News

  6. Pine Tree says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    Prop 215 was also watered down and had weasel wording with “vague” medical conditions and doctor screenings. That way everyone can get a recommendation to smoke it. It pulled on the public’s heartstrings for the “very sick” now Californian’s see what a can of worms it opened up.

  7. bdodson says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    im with fpogen up there…

  8. foible says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    I’m with Leland Faegre,very true!

    It’s like outlawing candy,what would the outrageous dentist prices do then?

  9. Confused says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    I agree Pine Tree my son got a card because he said he could not sleep at night!!

  10. Pine Tree says - Posted: November 3, 2010

    On one hand Obama health care is saying our youth are healthy and need to be “required” to purchase health insurance to off set others costs; on the other hand you have a oxymoron in California from the “watered down” prop 215 with over 90% of Calif. college students possessing marijuana cards saying they have an ailment.

  11. Bob says - Posted: November 4, 2010

    Personally I think Prop 19 did not pass because the marijuana users were home using marijuana and couldn’t care less what this business initiative was all about – consolidation.

  12. @Pine Tree says - Posted: November 10, 2010

    “Over 90% of California college students posses a marijuana card”

    Where did you pull that completely bogus statistic from. Ridiculous.

  13. cowboyjt25 says - Posted: November 12, 2010

    Prop 19 failed because people don’t want to endorse to our society and our youth that “getting high is ok”. Mr. Kubby get real, you got worked over in this election because the voters of South Lake Tahoe said “No” to you and your pot agenda. You seem to want it both ways, you want 215 for those who are “ill” but then you support 19 for recreational use. I think you must figure out what your real agenda is here. It’s not ok to get high and drive a car, operate machinery or go to work. 3 in 5 DUI’s are now marijuana related and not alcohol related, so put that in your pipe and smoke it. In addition, any thing the Spooky dude, George Soros throws over a million dollars at to get passed, will always get a no vote in my book. That guy is nothing but a dangerous, evil, shadow government communist with an agenda that scares the crap out of me.