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Prop 19 proponents throw pot pity party in Oaksterdam lot

on November 3, 2010

A familiar herbal scent filled the air in the Oaksterdam University parking lot Tuesday night as dozens of Proposition 19 supporters heard word that the bill had been defeated.

Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, or the Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2010), would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

At the corner of Broadway and 17th Street in downtown Oakland, results from the day’s election were projected against the side of Oaksterdam’s central building. A giant white wall bearing only the words “Oaksterdam University” was the recipient of a variety of cheers and boos. The university, which teaches the cultivation of marijuana, was founded by Proposition 19 co-author Richard Lee.

Lee, along with Jeffrey Jones, a medical marijuana expert, bankrolled and co-wrote Proposition 19 in July 2009.

Supporters watched election coverage for nearly two hours, sitting in plastic picnic chairs under small white tents and unafraid of lighting up. Swarms of reporters mingled among the crowd, illuminated by bright floodlights placed throughout the parking lot. Just moments before 10 p.m., the attendees at the event heard the announcement—that Prop 19 had lost by a 12 percent margin.

Response to the propositions defeat was eerily quiet, especially considering the adamant reactions to other decisions announced that evening. When Attorney General candidate Steve Cooley seemed to be inching ahead of his opponent, the crowd responded with boos and lewd language. But the Proposition 19 news hardly stirred a reaction among supporters.

Even Jones didn’t skip a beat.

“They are calling it defeated,” said Jones wearily. “Whether or not we lost today, we’ve won by making it something we discuss. I mean, look at what is going on here. Nobody would have imagined this.”

Prior to the bill’s defeat, attendees at the event were hopeful about its passage. “Prop 19 passing means that we can finally get over this stigma that everybody who is for prohibition repeal of cannabis isn’t necessarily a stoner,” said Oakland resident John Decker. “They didn’t just come out as a group of stoners. The coalition that came around Prop 19 just motivated me.”

Jackki Hirahara, a North Oakland resident working on the campaign for Proposition 19, supported the bill for different reasons. “People are going to smoke pot no matter what,” said Hirahara. “I think it’s great to be able to tax it and get some money into these cities and counties that are falling apart financially. There are a lot people who are growers who are against it, but I personally do not want to put money in their pockets. I would rather give it to our cities.”

The event attracted supporters from across the Bay. “It’s going to be a great day,” said Juan Pavon of what he hoped would be the measure’s eventual passage. Pavon traveled to California from Spain, he said, in the hope of witnessing the bill’s approval. “If Prop 19 passes, it’s like a wave all around the world,” he said. “It will come to Spain sooner or later.”

After the announcement, the crowd slowly began to disperse. Jones remained in good spirits. “If we helped to turn out a vote that got us a Democratic ticket governor, a Democratic senator and maybe, I hope, if we can hold out, a Democratic attorney general—then it was worth it.”

Image: Proposition 19 supporters threw a party at Oaksterdam University on Tuesday night. Photo Whitney Pennington.

Check out all of our Oakland elections coverage on our Campaign 2010 page.

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  1. KPJ on November 3, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    This story should be corrected to reflect the actual margins — it lost by 8%, not 12%.

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