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Prop 19 Counting on Broad Coalition, Late Ad Blitz to Prevail [FEATURE]

Los Angeles Times readers woke up Monday morning to find a Proposition 19 ad wrapped around Section A. A day earlier, they were greeted with a full-page ad in the Sunday newspaper. The print ads are part of a last minute advertising campaign that also includes ads on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report," millions of ad impressions on Google and Facebook, and a radio ad campaign highlighting the disproportionate harm that marijuana prohibition causes for communities of color is hitting five Southern California stations, three of them Spanish-language.

two page ad wrapping Sunday's LA Times
The ad campaign is being funded by a $1 million donation last month from financier George Soros and is being run not by Yes on 19, the official Prop 19 campaign committee, but by a political action committee controlled by the Drug Policy Alliance.

The ad campaign is part of a frantic effort to sway voters and get out the vote as the clock ticks down toward Tuesday night. A barrage of recent polls have shown the measure losing, but Yes on 19 said Sunday that victory is still within reach.

The campaign cited youth energy, the get out the vote effort using state of the art technologies, general voter disaffection, and pollsters' likely undercounting of turnout generating by interest in the measure. "Together, these factors put 19 in a better position to win on Election Day than is indicated by the mainstream media narrative," campaign consultants Dan Newman and Chris Lehane argued in a memo Sunday.

"In the final days of this historic campaign, millions of Californians will be exposed in every media platform to the Yes on 19 message," said Stephen Gutwillig, DPA's California director. "We’re communicating to young voters in particular because they bear the brunt of marijuana enforcement and their turnout is crucial to Tuesday’s outcome."

Soros and DPA are by no means alone in joining the fight to legalize marijuana in California. In addition to advancing the public discussion on marijuana policy -- a Google search for "California Proposition 19" generates nearly 7.9 million hits -- the fight to pass Prop 19 has also generated the broadest outpouring of support for pot legalization ever. From labor to law enforcement, from identity politics organizations to the blogosphere, from entrepreneurs to elected officials, from law professors to doctors, from political organizations all across the ideological spectrum, a nice chunk of US civil society has rallied around Prop 19.

Prop 19 logo projected onto stadium side, World Series game, spotted Thursday night (twitpic.com/31xdog)
According to the Prop 19 campaign's endorsements page, it has law enforcement backing from the National Black Police Association, the National Latino Officers Association, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara, retired California Judge Mike Grey, and dozens of other former and current police officers.

Prop 19 has been endorsed by more than a dozen prominent physicians, led by former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, and more than 75 leading law professors. It has been endorsed by dozens of California elected officials, the Berkeley and Oakland city councils and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox even spoke out about it last week, saying "May God let it pass."

The measure has the backing of the California Green, Libertarian, Socialist, and Peace and Freedom parties, the Young Democrats, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and the Progressive Democrats of America, as well as 10 county Democratic Party organizations. The California NAACP, the Latino Voters League, the Northern and Southern California ACLU chapters are all on board, too, along with dozens of other state and local organizations. A mother's group was organized for the occasion.

In a real breakthrough, Prop 19 has also picked up significant support from organized labor. The Service Employee's International Union (SEIU) of California, the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, and the longshoremen's union have all put their names and their political machines behind the initiative. So have a number of locals across the state.

Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jan Wenner kicked in $2,500, while insurance magnate Peter Lewis donated more than $200,000, Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker gave $70,000 and $100,000 respectively, while Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap president David Bronner kicked in $75,000, Men's Warehouse owner Robert Zimmer gave $50,000, and Washington, DC, activist and hemp store owner Adam Eidinger kicked in $25,000.

Other sizeable reported late donations from less prominent figures have come in as well. In the month of October, not counting the Soros million, the Prop 19 campaign has generated nearly $900,000 in donations.

All that money is making the last minute ad blitz possible. But that's not all that's going on in the final days. A massive phone banking and get out the vote effort has been joined by FiredogLake and its JustSayNow campaign, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, StoptheDrugWar.org, DPA, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California Young Democrats, and California College Republicans.

For example, at UC-Berkeley, students are mobilizing around the initiative and are identifying it as the most important issue for young people in this election. In addition to tabling and canvassing, they held rallies this weekend, as did supporters in other parts of the state, all in an effort to create visibility and remind people to vote.

"Students are waking up and taking notice," said Kat Murti, a former president of Cal Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Yes on 19's Bay Area regional director. "Thousands of students lose financial aid each year due to marijuana offenses, including Berkeley students. This issue clearly affects and motivates them like no other political topic."

Let's hope that's the case, and that the ads, the media buzz, and the organizing draw out enough "unlikely voters" to change the world with a win on Tuesday.

CA
United States

Final Field Poll Has Prop 19 Down

Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative is trailing 42% to 49% in the last Field poll of the campaign season. A Field poll last month had the initiative winning by the same margin.

The Field poll results are in line with other recent polls. The Talking Points Memo Poll Tracker, which does not include the latest Field poll, has Prop 19 losing 49.6% to 43.4%. Only two polls out of 10 in the past month show the measure winning.

It appears support for Prop 19 peaked in September, before any serious opposition emerged. The measure polled ahead in all five polls that month.

But the election isn't over until everyone votes on Tuesday, and the Yes on 19 campaign is in full-blown get out the vote mode until the polls close. Rallies, newspaper and electronic media ads, and phone banking will continue up until the last minute.

Still, the Field poll suggests a victory on Tuesday may be hard to come by. Only slim majorities of Democrats (51%) and independents (57%) favor the initiative, while nearly two-thirds (65%) of Republicans oppose it. Prop 19 is only polling at 49% in the San Francisco Bay area and 50% in the rest of northern California, and is trailing in Los Angeles County (38%), the Central Valley (39%), and the rest of southern California (41%).

The measure was trailing among men, 44% to 48%, and by a larger margin among women, 40% to 50%. It trailed in all age groups except voters under age 40, who favored by a margin of 54% to 38%.

Prop 19 didn't have majority support among any ethnic group in the latest Field poll. It fared best with whites (46%), followed by blacks (45%) and Hispanics (35%). But it got creamed by Asian ethnic voters. Only 22% of Chinese-Americans supported, only 19% of Korean-Americans supported it, and only 10% of Vietnamese-Americans supported it.

Can a surge of "unlikely voters" prove the polls wrong? Stay tuned.

CA
United States

US Nearing 50% Supporting Marijuana Legalization, Poll Finds

Though the fate of California's Prop 19 remains unknown at the time of this writing, majority support in the US for marijuana legalization appears to be just a few years away. An all-time high of 46% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. The number opposed to legalization dropped to an all-time low of 50%. Support increased from 44% last year, continuing an upward trend in the past decade.

time is on our side
Support for legalization was at 12% in a Gallup poll in 1969 and climbed to 28% in 1978, then stayed flat at about 25% throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s. By 2001, support had climbed to 31%, by 2004 it was at 34%, by 2006 it was at 36%. Since then, support has grown by 10 points to 46%.

"If the trend of the past decade continues at a similar pace, majority support could be a reality within the next few years," Gallup noted in its discussion of the poll results.

Pot legalization scored majority support among liberals (79%), 18-to-29-year-olds (61%), Westerners (58%), Democrats (55%), independents (54%), men (51%) and moderates (51%). It did least well among Republicans (29%), conservatives (30%), and people over 65 (32%)

Support varied among regions, from the West's high of 58% to 47% in the East, 42% in the Midwest, and 41% in the South.

The poll also asked about support for medical marijuana and found that 70% of Americans supported it. But that figure is down from 75% in 2003 and 78% in 2005.

The poll was based on live cell phone and land line interviews conducted October 7-10 with a random sample of 1,025 adults. Each question was asked of a half-sample of approximately 500 respondents. The margin of sampling error was +/-5 percentage points.

Prop 19 Still Trailing in Polls, But with Hopeful Signs

Proposition 19, is trailing in more polls, adding to a run of disappointing poll results as election day draws near. According to the Talking Points Memo Polltracker, five separate polls in the past week have Prop 19 losing by an average of 50.3% to 42.6%. (A Yes on 19 internal poll not included in the Polltracker has the measure ahead 45% to 42%.)

VOTE
A SurveyUSA poll released last Wednesday had the measure trailing 44% to 46%, well with the poll's 4% margin of error. As SurveyUSA put it, "not yet enough breathing room for 'No' to be considered a clear favorite, but enough of a 'Yes' erosion for backers to be gravely concerned."

A CNN/Time poll released last Tuesday was worse. It had Prop 19 losing 53% to 45%, with a +/-3.5% margin of error, among likely voters. (The numbers were slightly better for registered voters, 51% to 47%). The measure trailed among both men (46%) and women (44%) and whites (42%) and non-whites (49%). Only among liberals (76%), voters under 50 (57%), Democrats (55%), and in the San Francisco Bay area (55%) was Prop 19 polling a majority.

[Update: A final Field poll released Sunday also showed the measure down.]

The CNN/Time poll measured responses from 1,328 registered voters and 888 likely voters. The poll was conducted by phone interview.

The SurveyUSA poll is worrisome because a series of SurveyUSA polls as recent as October 18 had Prop 19 winning, but it does hold some grounds for hope. It measured both likely and actual voters -- early voting has been going on for several weeks now -- and it also polled cell phone users. Among people who only had cell phones, Prop 19 led, 48% to 36%. It also led among people who rarely vote in midterm elections, but who said they'd be voting this time, by a margin of 53% to 39%. And it led among people who had not yet voted, 45% to 42%, while trailing among those had already voted, 43% to 54%.

Those poll findings suggest that the initiative could still emerge victorious if it can get the young and tech-savvy and the "unlikely voters" who may be motivated by the issue to actually get out and vote. Prop 19 and its allies have been whipping their get out the vote campaign hard, and this week's million dollar infusion courtesy of George Soros may still give it the oomph to get over the final hurdle on Tuesday.

CA
United States

Latino Police Officers Endorse Prop 19 [FEATURE]

The National Latino Officers Association (NLAO) endorsed Proposition 19 Wednesday, citing a new report that found Latinos are disproportionately arrested for simple marijuana possession in California. Latinos are arrested at two to three times the rate of whites, the report found, even though they use marijuana at a lower rate than whites.

Prop 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 or older and allow them to grow up to 25 square feet of pot and possess the resulting harvest. It would also allow cities and counties to permit, regulate, and tax the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana.

"As police officers sworn to protect public safety and the well-being of our community, NLAO is proud to endorse Proposition 19," said the group's Manuel Rodriguez at a Wednesday press conference. "Prohibition is dangerous and deadly. Keeping marijuana prohibition has allowed a lucrative black market and threatened public safety in our community and the USA," he said. "Instead of making our streets safer, we're spending that money incarcerating tens of thousands of people, including many Latinos."

While Latinos are more likely than whites to be arrested for pot possession in California, they are also arrested at rates disproportionate to their numbers in the state. In Irvine, for example, Latinos make up 9% of the population, but account for 20% of all pot possession arrests. Similarly, in San Jose, Latinos account for 30% of the population, but 55% of all pot possession arrests, the report found.

California is home to some 14 million Latinos, who account for 37% of the state's population. But because many Latinos are foreign nationals, they account for only 21% of the state's electorate. Still, Latinos are the largest ethnic minority in the state, and nearly two-thirds of them are registered Democrats. Support for Prop 19 among Latino voters has varied widely in polls, and Wednesday's press conference and endorsement were designed to bring this key demographic over to the "yes" side.

"This report documents very significant and widespread disparities in arrest rates for low-level marijuana possession," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which sponsored the report. "Latinos have been arrested at double and triple the rate of whites in the past few years. There has been an extraordinary escalation in arrests for small amounts of marijuana in the past 20 years," Gutwillig added, noting that pot arrests have tripled to more than 60,000 annually since 1990.

The big increase in marijuana possession busts has come as arrests for all other crimes, including other drug offenses, have dropped dramatically in the state, Gutwillig noted. "At the heart of the dramatic increase in arrests have been substantial race-based disparities, specifically targeting Latinos and African-Americans, and especially young African-Americans and Latinos."

Since federal arrest data does not include a specific category for Latinos, marijuana arrests rates for the group are substantially undercounted, Gutwillig said. Disproportionate minority arrest rates are not the result of racist cops, but a systemic problem, he added. "The disparities documented in this report are the result of routine, pervasive police practices," he said. "This is a statewide phenomenon."

Also at the press conference was Diane Goldstein, a retired lieutenant commander with the Redondo Beach Police Department and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "The current war on drugs has not just failed," she said, "but is a policy disaster. We need solutions that deal with our communities' drug problems. We believe that through regulation, control, and taxation, we will actually decrease the likelihood of the youth in our community using marijuana," she said. "Drug abuse is a health problem, not a law enforcement matter. It is time for us to overcome our fears and and honestly assess the results of a drug war against our youth. Proposition 19 is a step in the right direction."

Police have other, more pressing priorities than nickel and dime pot busts, said Rodriguez. "We as the NLOA are backing California on this so we can concentrate on crimes that are violent," he said. "We've got worries about terrorists and explosions and two wars going on. We can concentrate more on terrorism instead of going into communities and locking up Latinos and African-Americans. We can use that money from marijuana revenues for schools and education," he said.

Proposition 19 spokesperson Dale Sky Jones also addressed the press conference. "We've found  in California and across the country that currently policy has failed," she said. "We have an opportunity to take cannabis and its profits out of the hands of criminals and to put it in the hands of those who will control and regulate and tax it. Prop 19 was written to protect our kids, and we have an opportunity to create tens of thousands of green, sustainable jobs for households."

It's less than a week from election day, the vote for Prop 19 is going to be very close, and every endorsement counts. Now, the campaign has one more law enforcement group on its side.

CA
United States

Prop 19 Down in Two New Polls

[Update: Two more polls showing Prop 19 trailing came out after this issue of the Chronicle went to bed. Read about them here. Then volunteer (you don't need to be in California, all you need is a phone), because it's complicated and there's only one poll that counts, the one on Election Day.]

Two polls released Tuesday show Proposition 19, the California tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, in trouble. This follows mostly (but not entirely) bad polling news late last week, including an LA Times poll finding the initiative's worst numbers yet. Whether Tuesday's million dollar gift to the campaign by financier George Soros can make a difference in the final days, or whether a postulated "Reverse Bradley Effect" is causing support for the initiative to be unreported in polls conducted by live interviewers, will be seen next Tuesday.

marijuana plants (wikimedia.org)
The latest poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows declining support for Proposition 19, California's tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. That poll has the measure losing, with 48% opposed and only 45% in favor.

A PPP poll in July had Prop 19 winning 52% to 36% and a PPP poll in September had it leading 47% to 38%. Tuesday's poll continues the downward trend line.

A new Suffolk University poll also has Prop 19 losing, 55% to 40%. That poll showed majority support for the measure only among voters under 35, 58% of whom said they would vote for it. All other age groups opposed it. The poll also showed Prop 19 losing even in the San Francisco Bay area, with support there at only 44%.

The Suffolk University poll was a statewide poll of 600 likely voters conducted by live telephone interviews and has a 4% margin of error. Prop 19 has come out ahead in automated polls, leading some observers to suggest that respondents are less likely to respond honestly about supporting marijuana legalization in polls with live polltakers. The putative phenomenon has been dubbed the "Reverse Bradley Effect," after former LA Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost a statewide election despite leading in the polls. Observers suggested that people were reluctant to tell pollsters they were voting against a black candidate.

The Prop 19 campaign recently released its own internal poll, which showed the measure passing 56% to 41% when people were robo-polled and leading 48% to 45% when automated and live poll data were combined.

Stay tuned. There will be at least two more polls released before election day, one by PPP and one by the Field Poll. But the only poll that counts is the one voters head to last week.

CA
United States

George Soros Kicks in a Million Dollars for Prop 19

Billionaire investor George Soros has donated $1 million to support Proposition 19, a campaign spokesman told the Chronicle Tuesday. The donation came the same day Soros penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal saying he supported the marijuana legalization initiative.

George Soros (wikimedia.org)
The donation was made to the Drug Policy Action Committee to Tax and Regulate Marijuana, a pro-Prop 19 fund controlled by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), said Tom Angell, a spokesman for YesOn19. Tony Newman, a spokesman for DPA confirmed the donation.

It is unclear how the money will be spent, but both proponents and opponents of the measure have begun limited TV and radio ad buys as the clock ticks down toward election day.

The measure would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 or over. It would also allow them to grow up to 25 square feet of pot and possess the resulting harvest. Cities and counties would have the local option of permitting, taxing, and regulating marijuana sales and cultivation.

The race is very close. The Talking Points Memo Polltracker, based on the average of all polls taken on Prop 19 this year, now has the measure trailing by one percentage point. Last minute ad campaigns and get out the vote efforts could make the difference between victory and defeat.

CA
United States

Pot and the GOP: Is the Party of ‘Just Say No’ Morphing Into the Party of ‘Just Say Grow’?

The Republican Party is a long way from becoming the Pot Party. Nonetheless, conservative attitudes are changing at the grassroots level. The percentage of Republicans in favor of legalizing marijuana has risen quickly since 2005, jumping 7 points. And as their constituents have moved on the issue, more Republican candidates and lawmakers are refusing to toe the party line.
Publication/Source: 
Newsweek (NY)
URL: 
http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/25/the-conservative-case-for-legalizing-pot.html

California Chamber of Commerce in Anti-Prop 19 Radio Attack Ad Campaign

The California Chamber of Commerce has begun a $250,000 radio ad campaign against Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. The first ads hit the airwaves last Friday, the business group announced in a statement.

Here is the Prop 19 language that has the Chamber so bestirred: "No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this Act or authorized pursuant to Section 11301 of this Act. Provided however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected."

The Chamber wants employers to continue to be able to fire workers for failing a drug test for marijuana, even though such test do not measure actual impairment, but only the presence of metabolites in the body. Those metabolites can remain for days or even weeks after the psychoactive effects of marijuana have worn off.

"Imagine coming out of surgery and the nurse caring for you was high or having to work harder on your job because a co-worker shows up high on pot," intones a woman's voice in the ad. "It could happen in California if Proposition 19 passes. Prop 19 would do more than simply legalize marijuana.  Prop 19 is worded so broadly is would hurt California's economy, raise business costs and make it harder to create jobs."

The Chamber has prepared a legal analysis that argues that Prop 19 would create a "protected class" of pot-smoking workers, and "expose workers to increased risk of injury, jeopardize federally funded projects and jobs, and add more liabilities and costs to already overburdened employers." 

"The employer impacts and workplace safety concerns highlighted in CalChamber’s legal analysis have been prominently featured in the many statewide editorials opposing Proposition 19," said Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. "We want to be sure we reinforce the facts with voters so they understand that this measure will undermine the ability of employers to ensure a safe work environment and create higher costs for those who provide and create jobs."

In addition to the Reefer Madness-style fear-mongering already cited, the Chamber ad falsely claims that "employees would be able to come to work high, and employers wouldn’t be able to punish an employee for being high until after a workplace accident," when the initiative clearly states they can sanction actual impairment.

It's the final stretch in the campaign, and big business has begun the mud-slinging.

CA
United States

California Blacks Disproportionately Busted for Marijuana, Report Finds [FEATURE]

In a new report released Friday, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the California NAACP charged that African-Americans have been disproportionately targeted in low-level marijuana possession arrests. The report, Arresting Blacks for Marijuana Possession in California: Possession Arrests in 25 Cities, 2006-2008, found that despite lower use rates, African-Americans were three, four, six, or even 13 times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites.

The report's release is timed to give Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative, a boost in the few remaining days until election day. It was released at a press conference where California NAACP and DPA representatives were joined by Prop 19 campaign head Richard Lee, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) executive director Neill Franklin, Hollywood actor Danny Glover, and former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders. 

The report found that in Los Angeles, with 10% of the state's black population, blacks were seven times more likely to get busted than whites. In San Diego, the state's second largest city, blacks were six times more likely to get busted. Ditto for Sacramento. In Torrance, blacks were 13 times more likely to be busted than whites.

"This report documents enormous, widespread race-based disparities in the arrests of nonviolent, low-level marijuana possession offenders," said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The context is an enormous increase in the number of arrests for low-level possession in the past 20 years. Arrest rates for all other crimes have plummeted, from rape and murder to all other drug possession crimes, but marijuana possession arrests have tripled since 1990, from around 20,000 then to 61,000 last year. This was made possible by the targeting of communities of color, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, and more specifically, young African-Americans and Latinos."

It's not just that blacks are arrested disproportionately to whites. They are also arrested at rates far exceeding their percentage of the population. In Los Angeles, blacks make up 10% of the population, but 35% of all marijuana possession arrests. In Sacramento, it's 14% and 50%.

"These disparities were built from routine, pervasive, system-wide police practices," said Gutwillig. "This is not the result of a few racist cops; this is the way the system works."

"I don't think there is any question this is a civil rights issue," said California NAACP executive director Alice Huffman. "If you don't believe that, you don't believe in justice in America."

"We're spending billions of dollars each year on the war on drugs," said Dr. Elders. "It's been a war on young black males. Wars are supposed to end sometime. It's time to end this war. Proposition 19 is an opportunity to take drugs out of the hands of the drug cartels and put them where they can be controlled and taxed."

"This is not about a right to get high, it's an issue of a policy that does not work and is damaging to our society and most importantly, specifically damaging to people of color," said LEAP's Neill Franklin. "Marijuana prohibition is the most dysfunctional public policy in this country since slavery. The violence generated in our communities is unbelievable and it's because of the criminal market this policy creates. The lives of young African-Americans are being lost every day, and whether they lose their lives to violence or to a prison sentence, both are devastating," he said.

"This is an opportunity for law enforcement to get it right," said the former Maryland narcotics officer. "We spend a majority of our time dealing with low-level drug offenders, mainly marijuana," Franklin said. "In the 1960s, we solved nine out of 10 murders; now it's six out of 10. When you apprehend a murderer, murders go down. But when you take someone off the streets for selling marijuana, sales don't go down, and the violence increases because people are fighting for market share."

"I want to say publicly that I support Proposition 19," said film star Danny Glover. "The current laws do not work; they have failed us," he said. "We know we are arrested disproportionately. This is a civil rights issue," he maintained.

"I'm not a marijuana smoker, although I have tried it in the past, but I don't want to stand in the way of people who want to use marijuana recreationally," Glover continued. "This is a long battle, and we're on the right side."

"I've always seen cannabis prohibition as causing a war between police and citizens," said Lee. "Police are supposed to serve and protect, not wage war on the populace. We need police back protecting us from real criminals, not ourselves."

The Prop 19 campaign and DPA did it again this week, this time with Latino marijuana possession arrest rates. But it's already clear that racial disparities in the enforcement of California's pot laws exist, and simply decriminalizing marijuana possession, as Gov. Schwarzenegger did last month, will not change anything in that regard, at least not directly. Minority youths can still be hassled, harassed, and searched for an infraction, just as they were for a misdemeanor. It will take legalization to end such practices.

Oakland, CA
United States

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