California — Local political pundits say the chances that a ballot initiative to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana will be successful appear to be – at best – hazy.
There is still seven months of campaigning ahead, but the experts say they find it difficult to believe it could succeed in November’s mid-term elections.
“I think most of the analysis on the medical marijuana initiative was it would not stand a chance, (but) this is going to be very hard to predict,” said Doug Johnson, a research fellow with Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government.
Johnson said the state’s approval of Proposition 215 legalizing medical marijuana in 1996 “definitely surprised me. Few people gave it much of a chance. It surprised a lot of people. And I think as a result of that past surprise, a lot more attention is being paid to this.”
Johnson said he expects “there will be lots of international and national attention as the initiative gets close (to November).”
Jack Pitney, political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, said some polls show the marijuana initiative has some support.
“But I wouldn’t bet the rent that it’s going to pass,” Pitney said. “Law enforcement will come out against it very strongly. We’ll see a lot of messages tying marijuana use to the use of harder drugs. And even though … it limits it to people over 21, the opponents will point out it will be very easy for younger people to get their hands on it.”
In fact, Pitney thinks the anti-pot vote will be substantial. He cited the fact that in mid-term elections, the majority of voters are older and more conservative.
“A lot of gray hairs are going to be entering the voting booth in November,” he said.
For Johnson, the vote on the marijuana measure will have an interesting aspect with current Attorney General Jerry Brown on the ballot running for governor.
Brown, as governor, signed legislation lessening the penalty for marijuana possession and has said he opposes this year’s measure.
“It will be very interesting to have this on the ballot with Jerry Brown,” Johnson said.
“And actually that may add support to Brown as marijuana supporters come out. But he will be put in a bad spot.
History may lead him to take one position but as the state attorney general I’m interested to see what he does.”
Pitney said he didn’t think that baby boomers, who grew up with the 1960s music festival Woodstock and its celebration of drug culture, would vote for the initiative.
“I’m one of them,” Pitney said. “However, I think a lot of us have come to have very different attitudes having families. There’s nothing like having children to turn you into an anti-drug crusader.”
Pitney said he did not know how much of an effect money would have in the ballot initiative.
“It’s hard to know in advance. Probably not as much as you’d get in other initiative campaigns. The person behind it, Richard Lee, I don’t know how much money he has to spend,” he said.
Pitney said fundraising will be a problem given the stigma tied to such contributions.
“But if it’s a close vote, it might go down,” he said, “because people with the greatest interest will be too stoned to vote.”
– Article from Contra Costa Times.