A bad day for potheads

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November 2 was a good day for those who support substance-abuse prevention, and a bad day for potheads and for those who support marijuana legalization.

Four-out-of-four marijuana initiatives were defeated — three by sizeable margins. In fact, legalization advocates seem to now be losing — consistently and by wider margins — in their “war for drugs.”


The big battle was in California, where Proposition 19, despite significant financial support from a couple of high-profile liberals and some leads in polls taken earlier this year, was defeated by nearly 10 percentage points (54.7% to 45.3%).

The vote was 2,797,169 to 2,317,450, the second time marijuana legalization was defeated at the ballot box in California (the first time was in 1972). With marijuana legalization being a two-time loser in California, California voters — like those in Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota — have now handed legalization advocates an 0-and-6 unblemished record of consistent defeat.

California Proposition 19 was likely the highest profile of the 161 ballot initiatives in 37 states on Election Day.

It was funded with $4.2 million in backing — including $1 million from billionaire activist George Soros and $1.5 million from medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee. Lee has very profitably exploited the California “medical marijuana” market. He funds “Oaksterdam” (a combination of Oakland and Amsterdam) “University,” which now has four campuses, and runs a dispensary, a nursery, and a marketing operation for the “cannabis industry.”

Proposition 19 also was supported by the California chapter of the NAACP and several major California labor unions.

Proposition 19 was opposed by the last nine Drug Enforcement Administration administrators, the Obama administration, many major law enforcement agencies, several prominent religious groups — including prominent African-American clergy — Governor-elect Jerry Brown, gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, the California Chamber of Commerce and — as you know — the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace.

The ballot initiative lost in 51 of California’s 58 counties. The only counties in which it had majority support were all in northern California — all in the San Francisco Bay area.

Had Proposition 19 passed, marijuana would have been legal for personal use, cultivation, and distribution, and could have been sold legally to persons 21 and older. The compromise on worker and public safety and health would have been enormous, as would the detrimental impact on employee performance and productivity. Employers would have been prohibited from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on their marijuana use.

South Dakota

A “medical-marijuana” initiative was defeated in South Dakota again — in fact, by a much wider margin than in 2006.

Initiated Measure 13 lost, 63 to 37 percent. Four years ago, it was supported by 48 percent of South Dakota voters. The drop in support was by more than 11 percent overall — from 48 percent to 36.69 percent.


Oregon — which like California is one of 14 states to permit the use of marijuana, at least under some circumstances, for patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions (circumstances which in many cases are very limited by the state governments, but which in several broader “medical-marijuana” states such as California are subject to significant abuse by “recreational” users) — considered a ballot initiative, Measure 74, which would have set up state-regulated dispensaries.

However, Oregon voters “just said no,” rejecting Measure 74 by a 56.16-to-43.84 percent margin (757,690 to 591,384), with 95 percent of the vote counted.


Finally, in the only close vote on a pro-marijuana initiative, Arizona voters again rejected a “medical-marijuana” proposal. Proposition 203 was defeated in a very close vote by a 50-to-49 percent margin (by slightly less than 7,000 votes).

All in all, Election Day was triumphant as a barometer of growing public intolerance of drug abuse and drug abusers, and their misguided — and often misrepresented — attempts at legalization.

Mark A. de Bernardo is the executive director for the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace. He is also a partner in the Washington, D.C. region office of Jackson Lewis, a national management-side employment law firm with more than 650 lawyers who exclusively advise and defend employers.