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

VIDEO: Two journalists test how marijuana impairs driving, before polls open on Prop
WATCH Test Driving California's Proposed Pot Law

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.

Prop 19: Moneymaker and Crime-Stopper?

The California government has projected that at an excise tax of $50 per ounce, the new law would bring in about $1.4 billion in additional revenues. It would save the state $960 million a year in enforcement costs, according to the Cato Institute.

"We are looking at about $12 million in revenue [a year]," said David McPherson, an Oakland revenue and tax administrator. "We recently laid off 80 cops and this community would love to have those 80 cops back."

Proposition 19 has earned the endorsement of several influential groups, including the California chapter of the NAACP, Latino Voters League, and the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Several members of Congress, including Reps. Pete Stark, Barbara Lee and George Miller -- who represent heavily liberal districts -- have also been outspoken supporters.

And former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has defended the measure, saying that much more harmful substances, such as tobacco and alcohol are legal, and marijuana should be not be treated differently.

Tom Angell of Yes on 19 said his organization had conducted internal polls that put the ballot measure ahead, with 56 percent in favor and 41 percent opposed, but that regardless of poll results the race was really close.

Yes on 19 released its first TV ad today that features former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara discussing the bill's public safety aspect. Angell said that his group was doing everything possible to get the message out to voters and let them know that it was possible to change the laws to end prohibition.

"I don't know why our opponents are trying to nitpick this measure," he said. "They seem to have such little faith in local officials to handle this."

Angell said he hoped that when voters entered the privacy of a voting booth, they will vote yes. Carla Marinucci, the chief political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, said the measure's passage was possible.

"Behind the scenes, people were saying I'm not gonna vote for this," she said. "But there is a lot of support for marijuana in this state."

ABC News' Huma Khan contributed to this article.