Vote 2010 Election: Buzzkill? Opponents of California Prop 19 Growing Optimistic

VIDEO: Two journalists test how marijuana impairs driving, before polls open on Prop 19.
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Two recent polls are showing support for Prop 19, which would legalize marijuana in California, losing its buzz and that's making opponents of the measure more confident as Nov. 2 approaches.

"We've done a ton of radio, television and print interviews," said Roger Salazar of No on Prop 19: Public Safety First, the measure's biggest foe. "The more we're able to get out and talk to people, the more they've been apt to take a close look at [the bill]."

Proposition 19 would allow people 21 and older to cultivate up to 25 square feet of marijuana and carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use at private locations. The state would regulate businesses selling marijuana and collect fees and taxes the way it does for cigarettes and alcohol.

Marijuana is California's biggest cash crop, worth $14 billion in sales, nearly double the state's second biggest revenue generator, the dairy industry.

Just last month, polls showed support for the bill was gaining steam. However, a Public Policy Institute of California survey published last week, revealed that voters had changed their minds and were now opposed, 49 percent to 44 percent. A Los Angeles Times/USC poll released last Friday put the numbers at 51 percent opposed, to 39 percent in favor.

Salazar: 41 of 43 Calif. Newspapers Oppose Prop 19

Salazar credited newspaper editorial boards with the change in direction, after they came come out against Prop 19, focusing on the negative aspects of legalizing marijuana. He said his organization and others felt good about Election Day and believed the trend was moving in their direction.

"If we can show people the flaws ... they'll vote no," Salazar said. "Voters can see legalizing marijuana if they can get something out of it. [Prop 19] doesn't do what it says it's gonna do and will just free potheads to do whatever they want."

Alexandra Datig, director of Nip It in the Bud 2010: No on Prop 19, said she hoped for a great victory on Election Day because the measure did not address how legalizing marijuana would work.

"There are no frameworks for control or regulation," she said. "We are seeing that voters in California are starting to read the measure and see that it's not what it's cracked up to be."

She said that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's statement on the federal government's position on Prop 19 also helped give opponents a boost in the polls.

"We will vigorously enforce the CSA [Controlled Substances Act] against those individuals and organizations that possess, manufacture, or distribute marijuana for recreational use, even if such activities are permitted under state law," Holder said in a letter to former chiefs of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Though a majority of the backing seems to come from young voters, Datig said the college students she'd spoken with enjoyed only talking about the idea of legalized marijuana. She said that none of them wanted to have a voting record that legalized drugs and that they were more interested in coming up with ways to address the drug problem.

She doubted the youth would turn out to vote for Prop 19 as they did for President Obama. "They want to do the right thing," she said. "They realize it's not the right thing."

Proponents of the measure, however, argue that it would not only help California's sizable budget deficit but would in turn reduce crime by shifting law enforcement's focus to harder substances and targeting only serious offenders.

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