A Hail Mary (Jane) for Legalizing Marijuana

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Backers of California’s referendum to legalize recreational marijuana will need to connect on a long hail Mary (Jane) if they’re going to score a victory on Tuesday. A Field Poll released on Sunday has the formerly popular Proposition 19 losing 49 to 42 percent.

The stoner world’s fog of optimism is starting to burn off. The California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) still expresses high hopes for Prop 19 on its website, but director Dale Gieringer told me on Monday that he personally considers the prospect of victory to be a pipe dream. “I have never thought it was likely to pass,” he said, “and it’s going exactly like I expected.”

The official Yes on 19 campaign still insists that Tuesday could be the day that ganja goes legit. “Proposition 19 is looking history in the eye and not blinking,” Democratic strategiest Chris Lehane writes in a memo released by the campaign on Sunday. He concludes that Prop 19 “is in a better position to win on election day than indicated in the mainstream media narrative” because the Field Poll was conducted before the campaign’s TV ad began running; undercounts young, cell-phone-wielding, pro-pot voters; and suffers from a “reverse Bradley effect” in which people aren’t honest with pollsters for fear of looking like potheads. 

But none of those arguments can keep NORML’s Gieringer from acting like a total downer. “You have the whole elephant in the room of the feds not cooperating,” he told me. And that means Prop 19 faces an uphill fight notwithstanding the reverse Bradley effect, which isn’t real, he added. Yet what is real, he went on, is “a well-established effect that undecided voters tend to vote no on risky and controversial propositions if they are not sure of the effect.”

Of course, 47 percent of California voters have tried marijuana. So just maybe, this is a state where risky and controversial propositions with uncertain effects still have a chance.

[Editors’ note: For a rundown on how the San Francisco Giants could doom Prop 19, read Adam Weinstein’s story here]

Last updated on 11/1/10 at 9:52 PM

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.