Opponents to Proposition 19 are scrambling to revitalize their campaign amid signs that public sentiment could be shifting in favor of the controversial initiative to legalize marijuana in California.
“We’re telling folks who are opposed, ‘if we’re going to get our message out, we need additional resources,’” said Roger Salazar, spokesman for No on Proposition 19.
So far, the campaign against Proposition 19 has been anemic, raising less than $160,000 in contributions this year, according to campaign finance disclosures as of September 30. Meanwhile, campaigners for legalization have raised more than $860,000 this year, led by Oakland cannabis entrepreneur Richard Lee.
That might be a big reason the campaign against the measure commands such a low profile – only seven events are scheduled statewide in October by No on Proposition 19, according to the group’s website.
But it’s unclear whether voters are listening. A September 26 Field Poll [PDF] showed the initiative leading by a 49 percent to 42 percent margin. That contrasts with a poll conducted last July that had the measure losing, 48 percent to 44 percent.
Salazar conceded the vote had become “pretty tight,” but predicted an “aggressive few weeks” in October would undermine support for the measure.
He declined to give specifics, but sources close to the campaign said they were hoping for a bipartisan push in the closing weeks, with the likes of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaking out forcefully against the initiative and warning of a dire showdown with the federal government if marijuana use is legalized in California.
Opponents are also trying to squeeze more cash donations from law enforcement and other groups, citing the latest poll numbers. Salazar said it’s unclear whether there will be enough money to buy time on television.
Last week Schwarzenegger signed a measure downgrading marijuana possession to an infraction, on par with a speeding ticket. The governor said he remained opposed to marijuana legalization, including Prop. 19, and approved the measure simply to reduce spending on prosecutions and courts.
Tim Rosales, the campaign manager for No on Proposition 19, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the new law “takes away the last reason anyone would have to vote for Prop. 19,” because it removes the argument by proponents that the state’s marijuana laws cost too much to enforce. Wishful thinking, or a new talking point?