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Prop. 19 backers plan new marijuana legalization effort

Supporters begin laying the groundwork for a new ballot initiative in 2012 after Tuesday's 54%-46% loss. Voters in 10 cities approve taxes on sales of medical and recreational pot.

November 04, 2010|By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times

Supporters of legalizing marijuana in California spent the day after the election laying the groundwork to rebound from their 54%-to-46% defeat and return to the ballot in two years.

"We have a debate that was just heard around the world, and the conversation has only just begun," said Dale Sky Jones, a spokeswoman for the Proposition 19 campaign.

Although California voters did not buy the argument that marijuana should be legalized like alcohol, many agreed that it should be taxed like it. Voters in 10 cities overwhelmingly approved taxes on sales of medical and recreational pot. On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council instructed the city attorney to draft a measure for the March ballot that would ask voters to approve a tax on medical marijuana.

In Santa Barbara and Morro Bay, voters rejected bans on dispensaries, while voters in Berkeley approved a plan to allow six commercial marijuana factories in the city's industrial zone.

Jones said the legalization campaign has made overtures to opponents and state lawmakers, and plans to try to push bills through the Legislature as well as draft a new measure aimed at the 2012 election.

"We see definite opportunities to break off bits and pieces of Prop. 19," she said, such as authorizing the commercial cultivation of hemp, the non-psychoactive variety of marijuana.

The campaign, which won endorsements from black and Latino organizations as well as from some major labor unions, plans to try to weld that support into a broad-based organization to press for changes in marijuana laws. "We don't have to start from scratch," Jones said.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which worked to pass the initiative, said he believed the idea of legalizing marijuana was so new to voters that more money would not have made a difference. The campaign spent more than $4 million.

"It's been sort of a dry run because it's given people the opportunity to have the first go-round of conversations," he said.

Proposition 19 was the idea of Richard Lee, an Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur who for most of the campaign was both the money man and the driving force.

The measure would have allowed cities and counties to approve commercial cultivation and retail sales of marijuana, as well as impose taxes. It also would have allowed adults 21 and older to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana and possess up to an ounce.

Proposition 19 found its strongest support in the Bay Area, passing in San Francisco and four nearby counties. San Francisco voters were most supportive, favoring the measure, 65% to 35%.

The initiative also passed in the Central Coast counties of Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, as well as in Alpine and Mono counties on the state's eastern border. Los Angeles County, home to a quarter of the state's voters, tilted 53% to 47% against the initiative.

john.hoeffel@latimes.com

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