What a difference six years makes.

In 2010, the last time Californians voted on a ballot measure to legalize marijuana, not a single statewide elected official had anything good to say about it. Newspaper editorial boards up and down the state slammed Proposition 19 as poorly written and dangerous. And voters rejected it on Election Day by a margin of 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.

But this year California has another chance to end marijuana prohibition, and establishment forces seem to be recognizing that the legalization train is leaving the station. They don’t want to be left behind when voters opt for cannabis reform on November 8.

This time around the legalization measure, Proposition 64, was drafted by a coalition brought together by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D). In 2010, the then-mayor of San Francisco couldn’t bring himself to even issue a public endorsement of what could have been the first successful statewide measure to legalize marijuana.

Two years after its defeat, of course, Colorado and Washington State became the first places in the world to vote to end cannabis prohibition. And two years after that, voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. joined them.

Now that legalization in the Golden State seems almost inevitable — a May poll found that 60% of likely California voters support it — politicians are wary of being on the wrong side of voters.

And Prop. 64 just got its first major newspaper endorsement, a joint editorial from The San Jose Mercury News and The East Bay Times, both part of the Bay Area Newspaper Group:

Once again, California voters will decide whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. They have previously rejected initiatives to do this, but while this year’s Proposition 64 isn’t perfect, it is a much more thoughtful proposal. It’s time to say yes…

Current law lags behind societal norms. Forty-four percent of Americans polled last year told Gallup they had tried pot. Even the current and past two presidents toked, although Bill Clinton infamously claimed he didn’t inhale.

Our police, judges and jailers have bigger issues than pot-smokers…

Opponents will continue to pick holes in Prop. 64, but it is generally solid — and long-overdue. Vote yes this time.

In 2010, newspapers lined up against Prop. 19, with some saying that legalization should happen someday but that the particular ballot measure wasn’t the right way to make it happen.

For example, the Mercury News editorial board itself, at the time, wrote:

Clearly, the war on drugs is a massive failure, at least regarding pot. A well-crafted proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults in California might well be a better approach, but Proposition 19 isn’t it. Voters should say “no” on Nov. 2.

The San Francisco Chronicle said:

Even Californians who support the legalization of marijuana should be extremely wary of Proposition 19. This is a seriously flawed initiative with contradictions and complications that would invite legal chaos and, more than likely, fail to deliver its promised economic benefits.

The Los Angeles Times opined:

Whether marijuana should be legal is a valid subject for discussion. Californians ought to welcome a debate about whether marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol, whether legalization would or would not increase consumption, and whether crime would go down as a result of decriminalization. But Proposition 19 is so poorly thought out, badly crafted and replete with loopholes and contradictions that it offers an unstable platform on which to base such a weighty conversation.

The Sacramento Bee quipped:

The measure on the Nov. 2 ballot is full of worrisome loopholes and ambiguities that would create a chaotic nightmare for law enforcement, local governments and businesses. It is so poorly drafted, in fact, that it almost makes you wonder: What were they smoking?

And the ardently anti-cannabis San Diego Union-Tribune argued:

Proposition 19, the Nov. 2 ballot measure that would legalize the possession, cultivation and transport of marijuana for ‘personal use’ by adults over 21, and would allow local governments to regulate and tax it, may be the worst drafted legislation since 1996, when Proposition 215 legalized ‘medical marijuana.’

In 2010, the only daily newspapers to officially endorse Prop. 19 were the not-very-influential Santa Barbara News-Press and Victorville Daily Press. Even the libertarian-leaning Orange County Register withheld its official endorsement, although it did publish a few editorials debunking opposition arguments against the legalization measure.

The question now is whether any other major elected officials and editorial boards will join Newsom and the Mercury News/Times in endorsing this year’s measure to legalize marijuana, Prop. 64.

Already, Barbara Boxer, one of California’s two U.S. senators said that she’s “leaning in favor” of the measure.

And Kamala Harris, running to replace the retiring Boxer in the Senate, now says marijuana legalization is “inevitable” but that her current position as state attorney general prevents her from taking an official position on the measure. She once literally laughed off a reporter’s marijuana question.

Gov. Jerry Brown has trashed the idea of legalizing marijuana in the past but hasn’t issued an endorsement one way or the other on Prop. 64 yet.

One official that legalization proponents aren’t holding their breath to earn support from is U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of the nation’s most vocal proponents of maintaining prohibition.

She recently said that if the measure passes, pro-cannabis ads would flood primetime television for children to see, a claim which Politifact ruled was “mostly false,” misleading” and “goes too far.”

But don’t be surprised to see other elected officials, editorial boards and establishment organizations lining up to officially endorse Prop. 64 soon.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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