Thursday, November 04, 2010

Proposition 19 - Hidden Victories in a Hollow Defeat

A Hollow Defeat?

With 100% of precincts reporting, California’s Proposition 19 fell less than 3.9% short of victory, leaving many in the media to focus on why Prop 19 did not get majority support. Ultimately the failure to pass Prop 19 will prove to be less important than what was gained during the campaign. Besides, how solid of a defeat could it have been when the opposition’s argument of greatest resonance was “if you are going to vote for legalization, this is not the bill to do it with?” That’s a tacit admission by the opposition that legalization is inevitable, a waving of the white flag while simultaneously fighting one last battle. A bizarre political tactic to be sure, but a sign for us that things are headed in the right direction.

So perhaps it is best to view the Prop 19 Campaign in terms of where marijuana reform stood at the beginning of 2010 versus today. These 4 outcomes from the campaign show why despite losing at the polls, Prop 19's legacy will prove to be extremely positive for reformers.

Hidden Victory # 1 - Without the Prop 19 Campagin Schwarenegger Doesn't Sign SB 1149

California’s SB 1449, which essentially decriminalized marijuana in the state, was signed into law because of the Prop 19 campaign (by “Prop 19 campaign” I am principally referring to the efforts of Yes on 19 and Just Say Now). Without the Prop 19 campaign, it is likely that Gov. Schwarzenegger would not have signed the bill. After all, it had been introduced in some form 4 times in the past decade without success. There was little reason to expect this year’s version would fare any better, as Schwarzenegger said, “I am opposed to decriminalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana.”

However, the unexpected happened when Prop 19 consistently polled for a victory to the surprise of many. At least 10 polls conducted in the weeks and months leading up to the signing of SB 1449 had Prop 19 winning (after the signing of SB 1449, it began to reverse). In a last ditch effort to scuttle Prop 19, the Governor reluctantly signed SB 1449, using the signing ceremony to decry Prop 19 by saying that it “is a deeply flawed measure.” In an effort to defeat Prop 19’s realistic chance of passing, Schwarzenegger chose what he believed to be the lesser of the two evils (decrim). " The success of the Prop 19 campaign forced Schwarzenegger to make a concession previously thought unattainable by many. In terms of the daily lives of Californians, far fewer people are going to have criminal record as a result of the Prop 19 campaign.

Hidden Victory #2 - Behind the Youth Voter Turnout Numbers

Some have suggested that the youth voter turnout in California was disappointing, but that assessment seems inaccurate. The LA Times has said that youth voters made up 13% of the electorate, which may seem low, but according to Rock the Vote, youth voters only accounted for 10.2% of the electorate in 2002 and 11.2% in 2006. This means the youth vote in California this year was proportionately 16% greater than 2006 and 27% more than the 2002 number, hardly something to sneeze at. In fact, there was such a groundswell of college-age voters that many college-area polling stations could not meet the demand and ran out of ballots. What’s more is that these increases were accomplished in the face of SB 1449 being signed right as voter registration efforts were being launched into full gear, which created more difficult circumstances to register youth voters even under these stepped up efforts.

Hidden Victory #3 - Geographic Success with Limited Resources

The Prop 19 campaign was only able to raise about a third of the money predicted necessary to ensure a win on Nov. 2nd. Consequently, there were insufficient staff to run an ideal campaign, which meant efforts could only be focused in certain geographic areas. The campaign made the decision to try to turn out the most voters in areas that were more open to legalization rather than the prohibitionist regions of the state.

In the SF Bay area, where much of the Prop 19 campaign took place, support for Prop 19 was tremendous. Five of the nine bay-adjoining jurisdictions supported Prop 19, all but one by 9 points or more, two with landslide margins of support. In three of those jurisdictions where it did not win, it lost by fewer than 2.5 points. Nearby Santa Cruz supported Prop 19 by over 27 points.

Moving further south through California, the Prop 19 campaign had fewer resources. Support extended down the coast to Santa Barbara, but the campaign lacked the financial resources to crack into Los Angeles and San Diego. However, many of the aforementioned college polling stations that ran out of provisional ballots were in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas. This is further evidence that marijuana legalization truly brings out the youth vote, something the political establishment would be foolish not to consider going into 2012.

A related aspect is impressive number of calls made through the Just Say Now and Yes on 19 phonebanking tools. SSDPers and others from across the country made at least 15,000 calls to California voters, which certainly translated into a stronger total in favor of Prop 19.

Hidden Victory #4 - Experience: Got One Under Our Belt

One of the greatest hidden victories of the Prop 19 campaign was that it trained the emerging generation of marijuana reformers on how to run a legalization campaign, and left virtually all of them wanting to win on this issue in 2012. To be certain, the Prop 19 campaign made its share of mistakes, but given the low expectations of passage, the mistakes made this year will likely not leave much lasting harm and will help pave the way for more successful campaigns across in various states in elections to come. Prop 19 may not have written the history book, but it will have at least written the playbook for success in years to come. (As a sidenote, when the history book is written, it should be recognized that many, if not the majority of those worked for both Just Say Now and Yes on 19 are SSDP students, alumni and/or current/former staff).

Similarly leaving reformers in a better position for future campaigns were the many coalitions forged, signaling the end of marijuana reform being a third rail issue for other advocates of social justice. From organized labor to the NAACP, mainstream organizations began flocking to marijuana reform like never before. Given the prospects for future success, it seems likely that these relationships will last for years to come.

What it All Means

So yes, I am deeply disappointed that we could not get Prop 19 passed this year, but looking at the big picture, the campaign was a categorical success as it resulted in the decriminalization of marijuana in California and brought out an unexpectedly high number of youth voters. The defeat suffered this year should ultimately prove fleeting, and should be viewed as the launching pad for future success. As the LA Times recently noted, the success of the Prop 19 campaign has pushed marijuana reform from the sidelines to the mainstream spotlight, an accomplish. Change in civil rights issues is a long process peppered with numerous defeats, but it is in these defeats where advocates discover what is necessary to win, and few such events have paved a brighter light to ultimate victory than the Proposition 19 campaign.

(thanks to Irina Alexander for editorial suggestions)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

SSDP Mountain Plains Conference in Colorado Saturday!

On Saturday, November 6, SSDP will be hosting our first Mountain Plains Regional Conference. Chapters from all over Colorado, Utah and South Dakota will be convening at the University of Colorado Boulder for a weekend of drug policy education and strategy. 

We have an amazing group of speakers joining us and the discussions will be informative and exciting. 

Speakers Include:
Rick Doblin, Ph.D. - Executive Director of MAPS
• Aaron Houston - Executive Director of SSDP
• Mason Tvert - Executive Director of SAFER
• Steve Fox - Marijuana Policy Project
• Brian Vincente - Executive Director of Sensible Colorado
• Emmett Reistroffer - Campaign Director SD Measure 13
Space is limited so register today! It's only $10 for students and $20 for non-students. All CU-Boulder student can attend free of charge.

Marijuana initiatives fail in 3 states

It was bad night for marijuana law reform. Proposition 19, the ballot initiative heard round the world, was defeated by California voters by a larger margin than supporters expected. The initiative still brought in 46% support - nothing to scoff at, and took the legalization issue to the forefront of American politics. It also left half-witted journalists scrambling to see who could use the headline "Prop 19 goes up in smoke" first.

Election Results from Just Say Now
Oregon's measure 74 lost with only 42% support, which wasn't too much of a surprise. The initiative had been trailing badly in the polls for quite some time. Measure 74 would have allowed dispensaries to provide safe access to marijuana in the already medical state. Oregon police officers (9 of them actually) have been accused of fighting against the initiative despite laws against officers in Oregon electioneering. The same trait is shared in South Dakota, where highway patrol officers campaigned against medical marijuana there as well:

Measure 13, a sensible initiative and well run campaign that involved 3 SSDP chapters unfortunately failed to pass yesterday as well. Getting only 36.69% of the vote, this was a with a significant loss, That is the second time a medical marijuana initiative has failed in South Dakota. SSDP chapters at Black Hills State University, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota worked incredibly hard over the past few months on this campaign.

In Arizona, Proposition 203 may have narrowly failed. This was neck in neck throughout the night and we are holding onto hope that this sensible initiative will prevail. As of now,  some reports say it has failed, coming up just shy with 49.75% of the vote. SSDP's chapter at Arizona State University worked directly with the campaign to assist in grassroots efforts.

SSDP's national staff would like to thank and congratulate all the students, organizations and individuals that worked so hard on all of these campaigns. You have helped bring marijuana policy reform so much further.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Polls close in 1 hour

While recent surveys have shown that Prop 19 trailing, the battle is far from over and no matter where you live in the country, it's easy to help get voters to the polls. Polls in California are closing in just about one hour.

SSDP chapter leaders are calling us to let us know that there is plenty of support for Prop 19 and students are definitely voting. San Jose State University chapter leader Mitchell Colbert left me this message earlier today:
Almost every student I talk too tells me they are going to vote for Prop 19 or that they have already voted for it today. Only 1 guy on a skateboard came by to yell "no on 19" at us and then he fell off his board.
But California isn't the only state to be watching. Important medical marijuana initiatives in Oregon, South Dakota and Arizona will also be decided today. SSDP chapters in each of these states have been working hard on each of these initiatives. You too call voters in any of these states and remind them to vote here.

You can track how Prop 19 and other marijuana reform initiatives are doing at the polls by visiting Just Say Now.

SSDP Chapters Rallying for Prop 19

UC Berkeley SSDP Rally
SSDP chapters throughout the state are engaged in GOTV efforts on their college campuses and doing everything thing they can to help get young people to the cast their ballots. Yesterday, UC Berkeley SSDP members rallied on campus before canvassing neighborhoods with Yes on 19 door hangers.

Today, UC San Diego SSDP is rallying around the Dr. Bronner's fire truck directing people to their polling place. Our students at San Jose State University and San Francisco State University have working with other groups on campus to remind students to vote. Other chapters are tabling, using sidewalk chalk to direct people to the polls and handing out VOTE19 stickers to their peers.

UCSD SSDP Chapter Members
Direct to the Polls
Chapters in California and throughout the country are calling young voters and asking them to vote today using the Yes on 19 call tool. You can use it right now too.

It seems like it's working. Our chapter leaders are reporting lines at the polls and many students confirming that they have already voted. On some college campuses, like San Diego State University, the polls are actually running out of provisional ballots.

And you have not voted yet, get to your local polling place immediately!

You can find your polling place here:

Monday, November 01, 2010

Tomorrow: Get out and vote!

Do you have a plan for election day? If you're lucky enough to live in one of the 4 states voting on marijuana law reform this year, make sure you know where your polling place is so you can get there on time (and bring some neighbors!).

If you don't live in one of those states, you can drastically increase the number of people going to polls in support of these reforms simply by making phone calls from your home!

If you want to call California voters, we suggest using the Yes on 19 Predictive Dialer which will allow you to call 5X as many voters as other tools.

You can also use our user friendly Just Say Now phone banking tool to easily contact voters in South Dakota, Oregon and Arizona. 
  • Call Arizona Voters – about Prop 203 which would protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution. 
  • Call Oregon Voters – about Measure 74 which allow the state to provide patients with safe access to medical marijuana through dispensaries. 
  • Call South Dakota Voters – about Measure 13 which would protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution.