Pot activists vow to push legalization in 2012

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 7:58 PM

LOS ANGELES -- It seemed an easy sell in California: The state that gave us medical marijuana would allow pot for recreation.

Then came the ads, newspaper editorials and politicians, warning of a world where stoned drivers would crash school buses, nurses would show up at work high and employers would be helpless to fire drug-addled workers.

A day after voters rejected Proposition 19, marijuana advocates wondered how they failed in trendsetting, liberal California.

Was it the fear of the unknown? An older electorate more likely to oppose pot? Voters reluctant to go any further than they already had with the nation's most lax pot laws? Fear of crossing swords with a federal government still intent on enforcing its ban on the drug?

Whatever the reason, activists vowed Wednesday to push on in California, as well as in states that rejected other pot measures Tuesday.

"Social change doesn't happen overnight," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for Repeal of Marijuana Laws.

In South Dakota, voters rejected for the second time a medical marijuana measure - a step first taken by California in 1996 and by 13 other states since. Oregon voters refused to expand their medical marijuana program to create a network of state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries.

A medical marijuana measure on Arizona's ballot remained too close to call Wednesday.

California's initiative, which would have allowed adults age 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana, failed 54 to 46 percent. An Associated Press analysis of exit and pre-election polls found voters opposed Prop 19 regardless of race, gender, income or education level.

Blacks and Latinos, for example, opposed the measure at about the same rate as whites. That despite evidence that pot advocates presented during the campaign that minorities are disproportionately arrested on marijuana offenses.

"There is a sense of people wanting to move into a new policy ... but still being wary of what that change might mean," said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Project.

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the successful campaign to defeat Prop 19, agreed that misgivings about possible social problems from increased marijuana use helped seal the measure's fate.

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