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November 3rd, 2010
11:36 AM ET

Opinion: Why did California vote down legal pot?

Jeffrey A. Miron
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Miron is the author of "Libertarianism, from A to Z." The opinions in this blog are solely those of Jeffrey A. Miron.

California voters have just rejected Proposition 19, the ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana under state law. Where did Prop 19 go wrong?

Prop 19 failed in part because many proponents emphasized the wrong arguments for legalization. Many advocates promised major benefits to California's budget because of reduced expenditure on marijuana prohibition and increased revenue from marijuana taxation. Other supporters claimed that Mexican drug violence would fall substantially.

Both claims were overblown. The budgetary benefits, while not insignificant, would have been small compared with California's fiscal mess. Mexican drug violence is mainly associated with the cocaine and methamphetamine trades, as well as from marijuana traffic to other states.

Many voters sensed that Prop 19 supporters were overreaching, and this made them suspicious of all the arguments in its favor. Common sense should have recognized that since marijuana was close to legal already, Prop 19 would not have had dramatic effects.

Prop 19 failed also because it overreached. One feature attempted to protect the "rights" of employees who get fired or disciplined for using marijuana, including a provision that employers could only discipline marijuana use that "actually impairs job performance." That is a much higher bar than required by current policy.

Read more...


Filed under: 2010 Elections • Marijuana
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. robin

    cannabis does not kill-people kill

    November 7, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  2. josh

    Anyone on here saying that marijuana should be illegal for the sake of god is stupid. What about the part in the bible where "God" grants mankind dominion over all plants to use as we see fit. Marijuana is in no way as bad as alcohol because guess what? Alcohol will kill you if you drink too much while Marijuana has never killed anybody from over use. The only real problem here is that there are too many people in this country that like to think they know what's best for everybody else when really they should just mind there own business. Us potheads dont try to tell you what you can and cant do. We're just trying to live our lives and get a little bit of enjoyment from a harmless plant. For a country that prides itself on freedom we sure arn't that free if I can lose my job and go to jail for smoking a plant.

    November 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  3. Eduardo Gonzalez San Diego, CA

    Why legalize another drug that will kill thousands, for tax money?

    November 4, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  4. Josh

    If a person was going to show up to work "high" after prop 19 was passed, trust me they are doing it now, have been doing it, and will continue to do it on into the future. Passing this law wouldn't have changed much.

    November 4, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  5. Cindy

    I voted no because many law enforcement experts involved in the battle against drug crimes in Ca were against it.s passage.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
  6. dan ace

    For many years I have prayed for an end to the flow of drugs into our country. I have known people who have lost their lives from addiction. Reading articles on the discovery of tunnels linking Mexico and Canada to the United States used as transportation modes for the delivery of marijuana brings joy to my heart and of those in my family. Keep up the attack against drug trafficking and its use-we were born without it and we can live too.

    November 3, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
  7. dan ace

    Legalizing pot is an antidote for destruction. Anyone looking to vote for Prop-19 is only seeking to addict our society into an early grave. It will also promote violence, further corruption and tie the hands of our legal system also take away the right to live in peace before the devil and its temptations.

    November 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  8. Jim

    The Reason it Failed is because WE the PEOPLE said NO!!!!! Just like we said NO to Gay marriage
    but some idiot Judge threw out our Votes If it is WRONG it is WRONG & Some of us Choose to stand with God!!!

    November 3, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    Some people have argued that if alcohol is legal then marijuana should be legal. That argument falls short when you factor in the number of people each year (over 40,000) who are killed by a drunk driver – why legalize another product that will impair the mind and the reaction time of the user resulting in the increase of the number of accidents and deaths.

    We tried to outlaw alcohol in the early 1900s; it failed and was repealed. Now with all the deaths associated with alcohol many people may feel that it is foolhardy to legalize one more item that can cause the damage alcohol does.

    There are other arguments against the legalization of marijuana but I think the statement in the post that marijuana impairment is no worse than alcohol impairment admits that the results of marijuana impairment can be as deadly as that of alcohol. Why approve legalization if it results in more deaths on America's highways?

    There are other reasons they could have voted it down but whatever the reason California voters said no and currently that is the last word for a while.

    November 3, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  10. Brandon

    Here's why: Old people voted, and young people didn't.

    November 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Tina Heil

    Well, San Francisco just outlawed Happy Meals.... so I'm not surprised this didn't pass.

    November 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  12. Steve

    It's better in it's 'unregulated' status.

    Think of all the income some people – otherwise unemployable at $10 and hour – can earn through selling pot.

    Selling sage is not illegal, or legal. It's ignored. But there are street vendors / entrepreneurs that collect it, bundle it and carry by basket in certain neighborhoods to sell. Nobody wants their SSN, nobody taxes them, etc.

    Why shouldn't marajuana have the same status – a plant that grows in the ground that some people are willing to buy.

    November 3, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  13. d carlson

    heard nothing from either party that can help upside down home owners stay.the deck is stacked to benefit banks who are unwilling to really act in good faith because of the large drop in home values here in az.most can't modify make more than feds allow and fear that everyone will ask for principle reduction.where i will be soon looking at 180k invested in interest plus down payment for a home that is value 178k seems odd that we can help banks but citizens are forgotten thanks for your time dave

    November 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  14. Rik

    Mr. Mirron it is obvious to me that you do not understand California's Marijuana situation , The Cartels get alot of their funding from pot prop 19 would have rendered 60% of their income useless giving them a huge problem to deal with they grow out here in the hills to FUND the cocaine and other drugs

    Second is the fact that the break down prop 19 in a non political way and you end up with this
    Smokers stay in their houses and smoke away from kids and the public and dont smoke before work because you can still get fired if your employer already has a no drug policy

    Let alone the fact billions woulda poured into a state woefully going broke fast

    But I believe the failing of 19 will spur alot more and not just in california 🙂

    November 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  15. lauren

    Because all the potheads didn't vote

    November 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  16. Pamela J. McConnell

    I guess they thought we would be too stoned to notice what they were trying to do, but as usual they were wrong. I have been part of this battle to legalize Marijuana for 14+ years now. I have had my home raided, my plants taken, drug through court for a year and a half before winning my case. I am a medical Marijuana user. That is why I voted NO yesterday. I refuse to let big business take over what I and so many others have worked so hard for. I want to grow my own and just be left alone as I have since 215 passed in 1996. What they wanted was to limit us to only 5ft. of growing space and we would have had to pay a tax to grow in our own back yard! Plus there was No limits on how much tax they could make us pay. Also if they grew it and packaged it we wouldn't know what they would put in it! Risking the chance of Marijuana becoming just like cigarettes. Last night we didn't say no to legalizing marijuana we all said no to big business hi-jacking our rights we have fought so hard for. Thank you for the voice

    November 3, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  17. Peter

    "Why did Cali turn down legal herb?"

    Why is there an entire letter on this? The answer is simply ONE word:

    IGNORANCE. Incessant & perpetual government propaganda-caused ignorance. That simple.

    November 3, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
  18. Larry

    I'm a working class citizen I pay taxes I vote and I do my part to support our country. I also smoke pot and there are millions like me that have been made criminals cause of a harmless plant. Mean while the alchol and ciggerates are legal. But not all people that smoke are bad just like not all that don't smoke aren't good. But when you give someone a criminal record for something like smoking pot it breeds criminals rather than stop em cuz now that person has no where to turn to but the streets

    November 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  19. Augsbee

    Probably because they realized that every pothead in this country would relocate to California and destroy the beaches, parks, neighborhoods, education, jobs, streets, etc....when California has so much to offer in beauty, weather, Hollywood and can make money on it.

    November 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  20. Larry

    I think prop19 not passing was a joke. They have spent more of our money fighting this war on drugs and there not one step closer to solving the problem. How can you allow liqour and ciggerates to be legal when we all know the results caused by both. And outlaw something that millions of Americans benifit from not jus recreational but medically. There are no medical uses for liquor or ciggerates yet it's sold nation wide. I say we all take to the streets in every state and every city and blaze up everyday till they understand that we are going to smoke pot unroll we decide for ourself that were done

    November 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  21. fank

    Ok, lets spend 200 man hours doing surveillance on a small time pot dealer bringing in at the most 500 or 600 a week (being generous, he probably smokes more than he sells), Bring 6 or 7 detectives and a swat team, bust downs his doors, find a couple ounces of pot, charge him with possession with intent to sell, throw in a gun charge for the little .22 hidden under the mattress....
    Lock him up for 5-6 yrs at around 27,000-30,000 per/yr (prison expenses paid by state) you do the math... the war on drugs is a joke, its the biggest waste of money in the history of this country over 2 trillion dollars spent since its inception and with no end in sight nothing has changed except the new industry of privately owned prisons popping up all over.....
    Picture a big bucket with a lot of holes in it, the water is on full blast. Water is spilling all over the floor. The first and easiest thing to do would be to just cut off the water faucet, and mop up the water....But noooo our government just pulls out a sponge mop and tries to clean the water without touching the faucet or even planning to touch it.....(endless mess) .
    Stop looking for Bin Laden in afhganistan, instead burn all poppy fields you come across, go to Mexico blow up all the big drug cartels (its not like they dont know where they are) burn all the pot fields, and then try to start cleaning up at home......kill the supply.
    The government needs to focus on the # 1 killer of US citizens Alcohol n tobacco.... im not preaching to legalize drugs but atleast try something that is going to work... cause whatever your doin is not workin

    November 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  22. vania

    Simply because the citizens of California are so superficial and ignorant to their true problems. I wonder how many people would of voted if the Lakers were going to get cut...

    November 3, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  23. AJ

    Greatly reducing californias prison population would have been another benefit.
    I still feel this is just a matter of time.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  24. R. I. Crawford

    I think Proposition 19 failed to pass in part due to its opposition putting the spin on that there would be stoned drives on the road, including school bus drivers. That worked to turn the public, especially parents of school age children against the proposition even if they initially favored it.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  25. keldoran

    I bet they just forgot!!

    November 3, 2010 at 11:45 am |