SACRAMENTO — In a landmark ballot measure that tested the boundaries of the public's acceptance of pot, California voters decided Tuesday night they're not ready to legalize marijuana smoking as a leisure activity.
With more than one-fifth of votes counted, Proposition 19 was losing by 56 to 44 percent. The initiative would have allowed adults over 21 to possess up to an ounce of pot and cultivate small amounts of marijuana at home.
The pot initiative – which would have made California the first state to legalize marijuana beyond medical use – drew international attention.
Proposition 19 was cheered on by marijuana advocates, drug war critics and even the California branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It was condemned by the California Chamber of Commerce and most state police organizations.
Ultimately, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in on the campaign, vowing to "vigorously enforce" federal drug laws in California if voters passed the initiative.
"When the U.S. attorney general talked about the conflict with federal law, that gave people pause," Roger Salazar, spokesman for Public Safety First, the No on 19 campaign, said as returns showed the measure headed to defeat.
In conceding defeat, Proposition 19 proponent Richard Lee, an Oakland marijuana entrepreneur who spent $1.5 million to back the measure, said he will push for another marijuana legalization vote in 2012.
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